Impact through eye contact

Ian Willey, Kagawa University


Quick guide

  • Key words: Presentation skills, peer evaluation
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: About 30 minutes
  • Activity time: One class period
  • Materials: Prepared copies of a peer evaluation sheet


Eye contact is crucial in English presentations. However, getting students—both presenters and audience—to actually look into each others’ eyes can be exceedingly difficult. This activity is designed to encourage university students to make eye contact when delivering English presentations and enable students to recognize the link between eye contact and a presentation’s impact. This activity can be done in any course where students must deliver English presentations.



Step 1: Prepare a peer evaluation sheet, which students will use to evaluate presenters. The sheet I use (Appendix A) gives a space for the name of each presenter, a 5-point scale to evaluate the impact that each speakers’ presentation delivers, and “Y/N,” to indicate whether or not each speaker made eye contact with the student filling in the evaluation sheet. 

Step 2: Make one evaluation sheet for each student in the class. Make sure there are enough lines for the name of each student in the class. 



Step 1: On the day that students give English presentations, pass the peer evaluation sheets out to all students.

Step 2: Explain to students that they should: 1) write down the name of each speaker; 2) evaluate the impact of each speaker’s presentation, on a scale of 1 to 5; and 3) indicate (by circling “Y” or “N”) whether each speaker made eye contact with them. Remind students that eye contact means actual eye-to-eye contact between the speaker and each student, not simply looking in a student’s general direction. I tell students that a presentation with impact is one where the audience feels the speaker is talking directly to them, and the presentation is thus interesting and memorable.

Step 3: To remind speakers that they must make eye contact, instruct them to write an “eye contact mark” (I use a smiley face J above each comma or period in their presentation manuscripts or notes (see Willey, 2009).

Step 4: Remind students that speakers as well as the audience must make eye contact. Also, as some students are inclined to automatically give each speaker a high impact score of “5,” remind students to take the scoring seriously in order to help speakers improve their presentation skills.

Step 5: Instruct speakers to write their names on the board before their presentations.

Step 6: Begin presentations. 

Step 7: At the end of class, collect each student’s evaluation sheet.


Out-of-class work

Step 1: Go through peer evaluation sheets, and calculate speakers “impact scores”—tabulating the number of fives, fours, etc., from each student. The format I use is shown in Appendix B. This requires about an hour’s work for a class of 25 students. 

Step 2: Prepare these results for students. I print out all evaluations and cut them apart for each student.

Step 3: When presentations are finished, give evaluations to all students. Ask students to compare their impact scores to the number of students with whom they made eye contact, and then compare their results with other students’ results. They can usually see a link between eye contact and a presentation’s impact. I ask students to remember that the “I” in “Impact” is “Eye contact.”



Though this activity requires some time, it is worth the effort. Students enjoy seeing how other students view their presentations. Moreover, unlike complicated peer evaluation rating scales, this sheet is simple, non-distracting, and requires audience members to keep their eyes on the speaker. This activity helps to make presentations more dynamic, enjoyable, and meaningful to students and instructor. 



Willey, I. (2009). An eye contact workshop. The Language Teacher, 33(4), 15-16.



The appendices are available below.