Just Look Me in the Eyes and Smile

Comments ( 0 )

How do you feel when a cashier has a frown on his or her face, and won’t look you in the eye?

I hate to say it, but as a life-long New Yorker, I’ve experienced that too often. And it is alienating. I feel like I want to take their head and turn it towards me and say, “hey, I’m here, you know! Aren’t you at all glad to have a friendly customer?” (apparently not so…)

How do you think your audience feels when they see you up there presenting without maintaining eye contact and with a very serious look on your face? Maybe the same?

The fact is that most audiences are positively disposed towards presenters. They either want to or have to be there, and would rather give the presenter the benefit of the doubt and believe that the experience will be interesting and informative. They are there to offer their attention and support, but only if you reciprocate. And that means giving them your attention and taking in their support.

Probably the simplest way to do this is through eye contact. It’s the most fundamental way to create a connection with a person, and with the audience. And it simultaneously makes us vulnerable, putting ourselves out there for the other person/audience. “The eyes are the window to the soul.” So making eye contact, one person at a time, helps them to connect with you and thus connect with your presentation.

Smiling is also important in forming connections. How open is someone to a person who never smiles? A completely serious face tells us to “go away.” It’s not an open face. It is not interested in connecting with anyone.

That is not to say to deliver a presentation grinning like you’ve just won the Lotto, but smiling at appropriate times, especially in conjunction with eye contact, will do a lot to predispose your audience towards you. And then you need to take in their support. Don’t close off to the positive energy they are offering. You can feel it, and you need to take it in, or they will feel as alienated as they would from the unfriendly cashier. No one wants to give someone the “gift” of their attention and support and have it handed back to them saying, “no thanks!”

You can easily practice this in daily life. Try with that unfriendly cashier and see if they change their tune. Practice it with co-workers, friends, family, the bus driver. Look them in the eyes and smile and say hello and look for their response. You may take some of them off guard, but chances are that with some practice, you will notice people becoming more open to you, and connecting with you more.

Then you can try it in meetings and in your presentations, and watch what happens.

Until the next time…


If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it!
Icon Icon Icon


  • "As someone who presents opinion pieces and data to large crowds, Kayla was instrumental in helping me focus and deliver the optimal speech and flow. I appreciate her time and intensity on helping me better relay my key points both in context and delivery." Sean Finnegan
  • "Kayla has a real knack for getting to the heart of a message and helping express it both rationally and emotionally for maximum effectiveness. She knows how to put a speaker at ease and get them ready to speak in high-stress situations. An hour with Kayla will make you a ‘Great Communicator." Lisa Merriam, President, Merriam Associates
  • "Kayla was an excellent presentation coach. She not only helped me discoverhow to turn a long, dry presentation into a story that is interactive andinteresting, but also helped me understand what it was that triggered mynervousness and gave me great suggestions on how to control it. Kayla isvery unique and invests all of her energy into your success." Christine Zambrana, Associate Director, Oncology Marketing

Newsletter Signup

All we need is your email: