But what to do with the eyes?! Well grab a coffee, take 5 minutes and check out Mariana’s eye contact tips for pitching entrepreneurs below...
“What you do with your eyes while pitching your amazing startup can absolutely make or break your presentation. Looking up, down, or sideways, as well as having eyes that move around the audience like nervous bees are all signs of anxiety and lack of self-confidence. But a little bit of awareness goes a long way in the eye contact department.
Scientists and anthropologists have been looking into the eye contact issue for a long time, even naming the field “Oculesics". Our eyes are responsible for communicating both social and emotional information, and we don’t quite control what they do. For example, most of us are comfortable with 3 seconds of sustained eye contact, but when we find someone pleasant or we agree with them, we are able to look at their eyes for much longer. The same happens on the contrary, we will avert our eyes from people we dislike.
So, what to do at a pitch event when you can’t wear your rockstar sunglasses?
Here are some simple techniques to make your eye contact be fluid and pleasant for both yourself and your audience.
1. Walk into the room and take a mental inventory of everything you see. Be discreet but make sure to register where all objects are located in space. Look for the bigger ones like chairs, windows, artwork, plants, etc. and smaller ones like light switches and toilet signs. This will give you a sense of ease and feeling “at home”.
2. As you take the stage walk with both ease and determination, and keep your eyes at horizon level. If you feel comfortable enough, start addressing the audience with your gaze from this moment.
3. Say “Hi” with your eyes. Welcome your audience with your gaze inviting them to engage in a conversation (rather than judge you!).
4. Smile inside. It makes your eyes be more relaxed and at ease. It opens your chest as well so it’s a 2-in-1 BONUS really!
5. Pan through your audience. Think of your gaze as a tool for including each audience member in your pitch. You want to make sure that everybody in the audience feels that you are talking to them. An easy way to achieve this is to pan through from left to right and back. The key here is to do it slowly and naturally, not as a task to be completed.
6. Keep eyes steady. Our eyes tend to move around when we think up an answer. Try to avoid looking away when you are asked a question.
7. Direct eye contact to be bold. If you have a question, an opinion, or need to be assertive, always try to use direct eye contact. Others will take you seriously immediately.
Let’s face it, eye contact can be awkward. Whenever we practice this with our clients there’s always a lot of laughter because it is hard to look at each other in the eyes. A good way to think about it is, meet your audience with your eyes. The same way that you might have shaken their hands when you walked into the room. So, go on and do the ‘eyeshake’!
Based in or around London and interested in upgrading your Pitching Skills?
Members of the Startacus community of startups, entrepreneurs, and self-starters can get a 20% discount on a 3 x 60 minute session package care of Metaspeech. This would normally cost £450 but Startacus members can get it for £360. Click Metaspeech for all the details.