An eye contact workshop

Ian Willey, Kagawa University


Quick guide

  • Key words:Presentation skills, eye contact, group work
  • Learner English level:Intermediate and up
  • Learner maturity:High school and university
  • Activity time:About 1 hour
  • Preparation time:None
  • Materials:None


How many well-prepared presentations have you seen fall flat because the speaker failed to look at the audience even once? Reminding students to make eye contact is not enough. Many students have never received formal instruction in public speaking,even in Japanese. Students need focused practice to help them lift their eyes from their scripts, and to recognize the value of eye contact in developing audience rapport. The following task can be used in a one-class eye contact workshop in any course where public speaking is on the syllabus.


In the lesson before the workshop, give a writing assignment for homework. For example, students can write a one to two paragraph response to this question: Are you a good student?This homework will become students’ scripts.


Step 1:Ask students what eye contact means. Why make eye contact? You need not give your own ideas here.

Step 2:Check to be sure all have done their homework. If necessary, give students five minutes or so to checkor finish it.

Step 3:Tell students to read through their scripts and find important words or phrases. They should draw a smiley face just above each one. Each sentence in their script should have at least one smiley face. An example sentence on the board may be helpful. Step 4: Have students form pairs.

Step 5:Tell students to take turns reading their scripts to their partner. When they come to a smiley face, they should look up and make eye contact with their partner.Remind them that simply looking up is not the same as eye contact.

Step 6:Move around the class and watch them go.

Step 7:Have pairs combine, forming groups of six students.

Step 8:Have studentsstand up and read their scripts to their group. They should begin with “Hello, my name is…”, and finish with “Thank you.”Again, they should look up at each smiley face. They must also make eye contact with each group member at least twice. If the speaker misses someone, or makes eye contact only once, that person should say “you missed me!” after the speaker finishes. The speaker must then speak again.

Step 9: Drop in on some groups and see if they make eye contact with you.

Step 10:Have each group choose one representative to speak before the class. In a large class, it may be impossible for speakers to make eye contact with everyone, but tell them to look at as many classmates as they can.

Step 12:After a student speaks, ask students who received eye contactto raise their hands so that all can see how successful the speaker was.

Step 13:Ask students what they think the value of eye contact is, in both speeches and conversation.


This activity helps students understandthe two-way nature of public speakingandcompels themto look at their classmates rather than only the teacher, as often happens. Students will hopefully realizethat a speech is not simply a public performance to be judged by the teacher, but a meaningful communicative act that involves the whole class.