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Chapter Fifteen. More Than Words Can Say > The eyes have it - Pg. 125

More Than Words Can Say 125 The eyes have it Eye contact is certainly a part of body language and is included in every book and every course on public speaking. It's extremely important to maintain good eye contact with the audience, but it is necessary to understand exactly what it means. The phrase ''eye contact with the audience'' is often used, but it seems to me to be a contradiction, for it is not possible to maintain eye contact with more than one person at a time. The idea is to go from person to person in the audience and make eye contact with each one for a second or so. The contact should not be too fleeting or it will seem furtive. But looking directly into the eyes of a person for too long may make the person uncomfortable. Jeff Cook, in his book The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking , offers a sort of formula for using eye contact effectively. He advises looking at one person while you express one idea. The sequence, he says, goes some- thing like this: · · · · · Look at your notes. Absorb one idea. Make eye contact with one person. Express the idea. Then go on to another idea and another person. I had never heard that system before, but it seems to make good sense. If it works for you, fine. Whatever method you use, there are four things to keep in mind: 1. 2. 3. 4. In maintaining eye contact with members of the audience, don't allow yourself to become distracted by something that's going on.If, for example, a member of the audience has drop- ped a pencil and is trying to retrieve it, look somewhere else in the room for your eye contact. Never try to look out into space over the heads of the audience.That is not making contact. Hold eye contact with the same person long enough to have a meaningful connection, even if you don't accept Jeff Scott's one-person-per-thought formula.Moving from person to person too fast will give you a herky-jerky appearance. If a short pause is indicated at the end of the thought, hold the eye contact through the pause. Pauses that refresh A pause is a form of body language. Pauses can be used for dramatic effect, for emphasis, and as transitions. In the discussion of transitions in Chapter Nine, I made the point that a long pause in a speech could have the same effect as a subhead or a typographical bullet in writing. A very slight pause usually comes at the end of a paragraph, a long one at the end of a topic. A pause also gives a speaker a chance to breathe deeply and may help him relax and pace the speech well. You might find it helpful, as I do, to write the word pause at appropriate spots in your speech text to remind the speaker when to pause. This could be especially helpful if the speaker has a tendency to talk too fast. If at first you have the feeling you're exaggerating your pauses, they're probably just right. What might seem like a long pause to you probably will not seem so long to your audience. The next time you listen to a really good speaker, especially one such as an actor or a TV commentator who is well-trained, listen for the pauses. Be conscious of when they appear, what purposes they serve, and how long they are. Other than body language, the two forms of nonverbal communication are the way you look and the way you sound.