Soft Eye Contact Draws Audience Attention Magnetically


by Sandra Zimmer


One secret to making genuine connection with audiences that will hold their attention magnetically is to use a soft eye contact.

Making genuine connection with audiences

Dr. Brene Brown who researches and writes on shame and vulnerability defines connection as the energy that happens between people when they feel seen, heard and valued and when they can give and receive without judgment. Dr. Brown’s definition of connection gives speakers a clue to making genuine connection with audiences. When you are willing to see, hear and value your listeners without judging them or expecting them to judge you, you can make genuine connection instantly with audience members.

Everyone knows they should make eye contact with audiences when speaking to groups. Yet, only a small percentage of presenters actually do it. Many speakers just pretend to make eye contact. They read their notes or PowerPoint slides and briefly glance towards the audience. Then they quickly look back at notes or slides.

Real connection with audience members requires real eye contact. It takes time to make real eye contact. To make genuine connection, you have to allow yourself to experience a two-way flow of attention. That is, you have to take the time to see individuals in your audience and allow those individuals to see you back without judging them or expecting them to judge you. In doing so, you open a connection that is felt as a palpable exchange of energy.

Why speakers resist making eye contact

The problem for many speakers and presenters is that they are afraid to really see individuals in the audience. They are resistant to looking at the audience for two reasons. First, they fear they will see bored or disapproving looks that will cause them to go blank and lose their train of thought. Second, speakers often do not know how to be comfortable with the feelings that get stirred in their bodies when they experience real connection. The energy of genuine connection can seem overwhelming as it creates a state of expended awareness. As a result, speakers unconsciously opt for looking over the audience member’s heads or for spraying their attention across the audience, so they never really connect with anyone in their audience.

How to use soft eye contact to make connection with audiences

I have learned a way to use the eyes for making connection that allows two amazing things to happen. I call this way of using the eyes soft eye contact. Using a soft eye contact makes it feel safer and easier to establish a palpable, real connection with individuals in the audience. At the same time, the receptivity of soft eye contact invites audiences to pay attention and actually magnetizes them to you when you speak. Audiences are drawn to pay attention through your receptivity.

The technique of using soft eyes originally came from martial arts. Martial artists maintain a soft focus when sparring so that they can see the whole of the person with whom they are engaged. While practicing a soft eye contact technique in an aikido class, I realized its power to open an exchange of energy between humans. In a few seconds, I experienced a palpable connectedness with a sparring partner. It did not take long before I tried to apply soft eye contact to public speaking. The result was a rich and deep connection I had not often experienced with audiences.

The following are steps to help you learn to use a soft eye contact with audience members. Practice making soft eye contact by following the steps outlined below:

  1. Allow the muscles of your eyes to relax. Your focus should become slightly unfocused.
  2. Gently land your eyes on one person, allowing your focus to remain soft. You will notice that you see the whole of the person. You will not see details of their features.
  3. Receive the image of that person. Allow yourself to see the person in a receptive, non-aggressive way. Look at the person as if your eyes are the lens of a camera. Allow the image to come in through your eyes as if you are drinking them in through your eyes.
  4. Receive the flow of attention from the person. Take that person in through your eyes rather than trying to reach out to the person.

Results of soft eye contact

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Through eye contact you can make a heart and soul connection with others. This soft eye focus of attention will teach you how to make real connection with individual audience members in a way that is non-invasive and non-threatening.

You'll notice some of the following results:

  • Feeling safer and more comfortable making eye contact
  • Able to actually see individuals and experience their uniqueness
  • Feeling less judgmental of audience members or second-guessing their thoughts
  • Feeling love and acceptance towards them
  • Receiving their love, support and attention
  • Drawing them to you magnetically
  • Able to hold their attention
  • Able to read the audience because you can really see them


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It's Your Time To Shine: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Develop Authentic Presence and Speak from Your Hear by Sandra Zimmer

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