Today's Blog: Eye Contact

Today's blog is an excerpt from the 'Persuasive Writing' chapter of our updated textbook The Senior English Writing Handbook which will be available in hardcopy and eBook form from the start of December. You can read further details about purchasing or booklisting the book here. You can download a PDF copy of the strategies below to give to your students here.

  • Format the text of your presentation so it’s easy to read

 The transcript of your speech or presentation needs to be set out in way that is easy to read and allows you to annotate spots where you should pause, repeat information or change tone. If you are using a lectern for your presentation, then print out your speech on A4 pages but separate out each sentence of the text. This will make it much easier to implement some of the strategies suggested below. Here is an example of the first three lines on a persuasive piece contending that more needs to be done to reduce the road toll of young people:

Dozens of families every year receive a visit from the police at Christmas. 

The news is that their children, their brothers, their sisters have died in a car accident.

Every Christmas from now on will be without them. Lives will never again be the same.

 If you’re not using a lectern for your presentation, so can’t rest A4 pages against something, then it’s highly advisable that you put your presentation on cards. If you have your presentation on A4 pages, then you’ll probably tend to spend most of your time reading from the sheets, rather than looking at the audience and actively engaging with them. Cards should:

*Be small enough to be held in one hand. While you can use two hands to hold the cards for parts of the presentation, you still want to be able to use both hands to make hand gestures. When you do use both hands (or one hand to make gestures), your cards will need to be held by only one hand. A good size for a card is an A4 page that has been divided into eighths

*Be written with the sentences separated out - the same as suggested above for a presentation written out on an A4 page

*Have only 2-3 sentences so they’re easier to read


  • Make eye contact at the end of sentences

Your brain can read written text faster than you speak it. Effective speakers start by reading aloud a sentence, but as they read it aloud, their eyes scan through and process the rest of the sentence. This means you know the words which finish a sentence before you read them aloud. When you know how a sentence finishes, you can look up, make eye contact with different sections of the audience and finish saying aloud the sentence as you do. Try this technique now. Read and speak aloud the sentence below and let your eyes scan through the whole sentence as you speak it aloud. Try looking up and saying the last few words of the sentence from memory: 

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog because there was a bowlful of hotdogs on the other side.

  • Make eye contact with different sectors of the room

The audience of people you will be speaking to can be divided into different ‘sectors’:

*The sector of people to the right

*The sector of people to the front

*The sector of people to the left

*The sector of people at the back of the room

*The sector of people at the front of the room

Your task isn’t to eyeball specific people in the crowd, but to look at different groups of people in the crowd. Try:

*Looking at a different sector of people every time you make eye contact at the end of a sentence

*Looking at more than one sector of people when you look at the audience. For example, look to the right and then the left, or look at the back and then the front

Liked this lesson idea? Find hundreds more on our lesson blog Tomorrow's Class here.