Oh, Those Harvard Boys!

Sitting front and center watching Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatrical got me thinking about the importance of eye contact. The show is quite a tradition here in the Boston/Cambridge area, going strong now for 168 years.

It’s No-Holds-Barred Burlesque:
student-written, raunchy, with outrageous puns and an all-male cast wearing serious full drag, wigs and make-up. I was thinking, Man, those boys can sing! And dance! But more astoundingly, they’re all wearing high (in some cases really high) heels!

Here’s the Kicker.
Not one of them ever looked down, including while dancing a final can-can chorus line. Because they never looked uncertain or uncomfortable, we concentrated on what they were saying, not on whether they might trip.

When You Present
it’s your job to look comfortable and certain about your material and why you are there delivering it. Do this by maintaining as much eye contact as possible. Look down briefly to absorb a phrase or bullet point from your notes; then look up to deliver it to audience eyeballs. Looking at your material (paper or screen) is very seductive.

It Takes Concerted Effort
to pull your eyes away and look at your listeners, but that’s what will keep them hooked. And not worried about your next step.