Throughout the centuries we’ve known, instinctually, that the face and eyes are the home of connection between two human beings. When we come face-to-face, eye to eye, there is a mutual force we can feel.
Face, Eyes, Connectivity, Influence
Now there is science that reveals just how deeply our brains are wired to connect and to influence. They linkup during these human moments and the neural dance that follows drives our moods, attitudes and well-being.
We Have Forgotten Our Power to Influence
This is the raw power we have at our disposal as human beings. To say that we influence and are influenced by these connections is an understatement. We can impact the direction of our lives by the way we show up and the relationships we harvest.
We seem to have forgotten our power. Caught in the busy trap, we spend more time in own thoughts than in the moment. We show up as distracted human-doings instead of human-beings.
Obsessions and Oversights
Author Brigid Schulte contends that we are living in “an epidemic of people talking about how busy they are.” In her book Overwhelmed, she tells us that moaning about one’s schedule has become, for some, an odd mark of social status. We practice “busy bragging” (unconsciously) to prove our value.
All of this plays out in business presentations when we show up overly obsessed with our slides, how we look, our content and our data. We assume we make good eye contact and connect well with others. But we actually look around the room like a pinball, bouncing off one person to the next. Or we sweep the room from side to side—never resting on anyone long enough to connect. We squander the opportunity to make genuine connections.
Too Little, Too Much?
Too little eye contact and incongruent facial expressions (such as saying “I’m so excited to be here” with a pan face) sends the signal that you are insincere. On the other hand, too much eye contact might be interpreted as rude, flirtatious, or threatening. You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. The advice? Connect naturally, the way you do in a conversation with friends. Even more important is the fundamental motive behind your presentation or talk. Dale Carnegie wrote about this in the 1930s, when he put forth the idea that the key to influence was developing a sincere interest in others.
Six Steps for Connection
What if you seized the opportunity you have with business presentations to make human connections–to build trust and influence? Here are Six Steps to consider:
1. Always ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?” “What can I help them solve?”
- Talk to us with the sincere intention of offering insights.
2. When you present or run meetings, have “mini-conversations,” one person at a time versus sweeping the room.
- Hold the gaze of each person for 3-4 seconds and you will notice the connection. Speak to each person as though, at that moment, they are the only other person in the room.
3. Know and own your material.
- Speak from your knowledge, not your slides or your script. We want to connect with you as the source of your message.
4. Say less, connect more.
- Select only the most relevant, compelling information, add a story and leave room to pause and “feel” your relationship to us. We will feel it, too.
5. Practice with your teammates since intentional, group practice with feedback can be transformational.
- When it’s time to present, you can jump into the communication zone and enjoy the conversation.
6. When someone else is speaking, show respect to influence your audience.
- Give them your attention and empower them to communicate effectively. This is a demonstration of leadership.
The length of eye contact will vary by culture. The Japanese tend to avert their eyes more quickly than those in Western cultures, and they may interpret someone who uses eye contact as unpleasant or unapproachable.
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