When a person first begins preaching, or public speaking in general, the most intimidating thing about the crowd is … the crowd. For whatever reason, they are all staring at you! There’s no place to hide and some of them don’t even blink.
One of the mistakes a new speaker or preacher most often makes has to do with the eyes. They don’t make eye contact. Instead, they look down, over the top of the crowd, at the clock, their notes, their feet, trying to find the exit sign — anywhere but at the crowd.
Ironically, refusing to make eye contact is counter-productive. When we make eye contact with a fellow sympathetic human being (who wants us to succeed so that they can stay awake), we find reassurance rather than anxiety. The false wall between crowd and speaker begins to break down. We’re reminded of what we share in common.
It has been said that the eyes are the “windows to the soul.”
When it comes to preaching or public speaking, this goes both ways. By making eye contact with our audience, we are allowing them to see the passion behind the presentation. It conveys openness and integrity. By looking into the eyes of our audience, we’re reminded that we’re not just dictating information to a tape recorder but to a human being with hopes and aspirations.
While it may be nerve-wracking to think of looking the audience in the eye, it’s well worth it.