Several Sundays ago, I witnessed a great reason why preachers should maintain good eye contact with the audience. We had a guest speaker on that particular Sunday and somewhere in the middle of his message, he noticed a woman who needed medical attention. He stopped the sermon and called the attention of any medical personnel in the building. Doctors in our congregation were able to quickly assist her (she’s fine, by the way). This serves as a great example of why preachers should be attentive to the audience. Here are some ideas for keeping good eye contact:
(1) Look at the audience.
Contrary to what some speakers may believe, people can actually tell if you’re looking at them or not. It’s easy to spot if a preacher is simply glancing over the heads of the audience. It’s all in the eyes. A helpful tip is to keep your chin down. Of course, there’s more to it than that but keeping your chin down will at least position your eyes in the right direction.
(2) It’s OK to pause.
A lot of public speakers fear silence for various reasons. I, on the other hand, believe that there’s so much power in a well-placed pause (I’ll do a whole series on this topic later). It’s perfectly OK (and highly recommended) to pause at appropriate intervals and survey the crowd. See if they’re still there! You never know… they may have already slipped out the back door.
(3) Preparation is key.
The more prepared you are, the less you need to rely on any notes that you have. This will allow you to survey the audience more frequently and more effectively. Nothing is more disengaging than a speaker who only reads from their manuscript and fails to look at the audience enough.
(4) Comment on what’s happening.
One of the best ways to engage the crowd is by commenting on something that’s happening there (even if it’s an off-topic remark). This unconsciously signals to people that you’re very much in the room with them and that you’re paying attention to them as much as they are to you. Comment on somebody’s funny hat or on the guy who’s secretly eating a bag of potato chips. You can’t comment on what’s happening if you’re not observing what’s going on in the room.