Saw the importance first-hand last night of connecting with the audience via eye contact and any other way possible. Presenting to an aviation crowd in a hotel ballroom. 202 chairs set up — brought in another 25 as we reached capacity. Final tally was 291 and we ended with about 25 people sitting on the floor scattered all over and 40 people standing outside the doors in the foyer listening as they could. Chairs were put in such places I could no longer easily get up the aisles or transition from one side of the room to the other without walking through the projection beam. Folks were coming down the aisles to sit on the floor as late as 30 minutes into the program. The previous night, we crammed 245 in a room set up for 200 (don’t tell the fire marshall).From a presenter’s POV, it’s a good problem to have, and it drove the energy level way up to be packed. I’m amazed people would stand for 90 minutes to listen to anyone. But there were people literally in the corners and probably 25 folks were so far laterally they couldn’t even see the screen. This drives home the point that the PPT cannot be the presentation. I admit I did have a few sight gags those folks likely missed. So coming out of those gags, I made a point to go to them physically and visually, staying a little longer in the corners than I otherwise would, making sure that they felt a part of the program.I’m always amazed at the reaction of those folks on the back row — probably about a dozen rows back in this case — who perk up when we clearly connect with them via eye contact. One guy who I connected with the first time lit up with a huge smile when it was apparent I was making a point to him. When I asked the next rhetorical question, he made sure he was the one to answer.Since I was unable to easily get back to my laptop and had to handle a microphone issue there (the sound system had some problems), I assigned an audience member to do it for me. He took on the task with a gusto I could never have mustered, allowing me a needed break for water and a chance to not only connect with him, but stay physically connected to those corner folks at the same time a task had to be done 40 feet away.
Regardless of how you do it, connecting with the audience is critical to a good message.