July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.
By Guest Expert Christine Maier
In the past, I was terrible with eye contact. For a long time, I wasn’t even aware of it, but at some point, I realized that I rarely did it. I watched people’s lips instead. Once I was aware, I started to work on it, a little here or there. However, when I started speaking, I knew I needed to work harder. I knew why, like I know why I need to eat vegetables. But actually doing it was another thing. It’s scary to break a lifetime of behavior.
I recently had an experience that made me realize HOW important it was and it created a mental shift in this area.
I recently attended two concerts. Artist one was a well-established artist who knows how to work a stage as I’ve never seen. Artist two was newer and still learning their trade. For both artists, I was pretty much at the security line about two arm’s length from the stage.
Artist one made eye contact with me and held it uncomfortably long. I didn’t know what to do with myself, it felt like a long time and the longer it was, the harder it was to look away. It was a moment, the type of moment you desire with someone you look up to. I had just had a moment with my favorite artist. I had to resist every urge to turn into a teenage groupie, scream, and pass out on the floor. A few weeks later I bought a ticket to see that artist again.
Artist two I saw about a month later. This artist barely looked at the crowd. While they looked in the direction of the crowd, they didn’t look at them. Instead, the artist often looked to the sides of the stage, where there were no people near them. It was a good concert, but it wasn’t great. I didn’t feel connected. I could have had the same experience from the back of the crowd.
In a culture that is used to connecting over the Internet, making connections in person can be intimidating at times. It can make you feel exposed. Knowing that eye contact can be the difference between a good speech and a great speech can only motivate you so much. But feeling the difference between a good and great speech, or concert, makes eye contact the only option when you’re on stage. It changes lives at a different level because it brings the audience in at a different level. That’s why you’re there, for the audience, to change their lives. When it’s no longer about you, it doesn’t seem so scary.
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About Christine Maier
Christine Maier is an author, coach, and speaker helping individuals live a life without limits.
Christine was born with a cleft lip and palate and has had over 25 surgeries. In elementary school, she was classified as learning disabled. She’s earned her Bachelor’s Degree from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s Degree from the University at Albany. In 2017 she published her first book, Blue Sky Morning.
Christine is a 20-year veteran of the New York City Police Department where she attained the rank of Sergeant. She served as the first Director (Commanding Officer) of New York City Emergency Management’s Watch Command, leading a staff of 35 who were charged with coordinating emergency activity and issuing emergency alerts to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.