Why is Eye Contact Important for Singers and Performers?
Eye contact is very important when you are performing to an audience. Not only does eye contact help you convey the emotion of the song to the audience, but it also helps the audience connect to you as a performer. Here’s our short answer as to why eye contact is important, followed by some tips you can use to improve your own singing performance.
Eye contact is an important communication tool, and is important to help make your audience feel involved in your performance. It will also help to convey the emotion and feeling in your singing performance. Without it, your audience can feel uncomfortable and un-involved with your singing.
Performing is one of the most important parts of being a singer, so knowing how to entertain your audience through your performance and using facial expressions is crucial. Overcoming anxiety on stage and using good eye contact is an essential ingredient to this.
The importance of eye contact
Sometimes we don’t even notice eye contact until it’s not there. Eye contact during a singing performing can be subconscious thing when it takes place, and really obvious when it doesn’t. Singers should always look to achieve ‘soulful eye-contact’ with their audience.
For example, imagine you are watching a singer perform and they are looking at the floor. What would it say to you about the singer? How would you feel as a member of the audience? You’d probably feel ignored, like the singer is uninterested in you, or maybe even dislikes you.
Watch other singer’s performances and see how they engage with eye contact and then record and watch your own performance.
Eye contact is a an essential part of a singer’s performance
As a performer you need to be able to connect to your audience and create audience engagement so they’re on your side. It is important to have a certain presence on stage, which lets the audience know that you are confident in your singing abilities.
What you do with your eyes during a performance should be determined by what is artistically appropriate to the song or performance.
You need to avoid looking at the ground and actually engage with your audience through eye contact, give the audience a reason to keep their eyes on you.
You’ll make the audience feel special if you communicate strongly through eye contact.
Overcoming the fear of eye contact
Avoiding eye contact with the audience due to stage fright or shyness is not uncommon, especially for novice performers, however the problem with this is that the audience will feel a similar discomfort if you never look at them. Appropriate eye contact can give you greater command of your stage presence.
As difficult as it may seem to overcome the impulse to not look at the audience, if you don’t you may always appear to be a novice in the audience’s mind.
A way to overcome this issue is to look at a point just above the audience if you are performing in a big room or at an audience’s members head, as they will think you are looking at them. Gradually you will be able to become confident enough to actually look in their eyes. They will be nervous than you if you do!
It’s not essential that you make eye contact with every audience member all the time – in fact, it would be impossible. But creating the illusion of eye contact is really important. This can be done by picking a random spot within your audience and focussing there.
But be careful – if you just focus on one spot, it can be dull for the audience, and a little overbearing for the audience members near your eyeline. This is what Adrienne Osborn calls ‘fearful eye contact’, the kind where a singer is obviously looking for audience approval.
You can practice eye contact with the video:
Using eye contact appropriately
If you’re singing a sad song, closing your eyes may be the best way to convey the mood, so don’t be afraid to do this if it is appropriate. There are many situations however when looking directly at your audience is exactly what is needed to create the most impact emotionally.
If you look them straight in the eye it can make your performance more powerful and really engage your audience. Let your song interpretation dictate what you do with your eyes.
If the stage lights are shining in your eyes, it may be difficult to actually make eye contact, but don’t let that be an excuse for you to stare at your feet or the ceiling. Keep in mind that the audience do not have the lights shining in their eyes and they can see you.
It usually doesn’t occur to them that you can’t see them, so they expect you to be looking their way, not at your feet! Know where the audience is, so even if I can’t see them, still look in their direction. Even if you can’t actually see anybody, you can create the illusion that you’re looking people in the eye and forging that real connection.
When singing to larger groups, although it can be hard to see your eyes, it’s crucial that an audience still feels a connection through eye contact.
Try splitting the audience into quadrants and sing to each quadrant for a few seconds. Even if you’re not making eye contact with every single person it will look and feel as if you’re singing to each audience member.
Eye contact during a performance displays confidence
An audience knows that it takes bravery to perform in front of them, but if that bravery isn’t obvious in a singer’s performance, it can be off-putting. Not making eye contact can indicate to them that you’re scared to be there.
If you flaunt your bravery, however, it can make your performance more impressive. It’s also more likely to make an audience member think, “I couldn’t do that!”
Making eye contact shows you are prepared
As is the case with public speaking or interviews, if you face away from your audience, it can indicate a lack of preparation. That’s partially a matter of the confidence we addressed above, but it’s also a separate issue.
If your eyes are wandering, particularly upwards or downwards, it looks like you’ve either forgotten or don’t know what you’re doing, even if this isn’t the case. But looking at your audience will have them believe that you are totally ready for your performance.
Eye contact engages your audience and shows you care
According to The New York Times’ article ‘How To Make Soulful Eye Contact’, studies have shown that eye contact helps human beings to empathise with one another. Think about how powerful your performance can be if that’s the case.
Adrienne Osborn, who we mentioned earlier, talks about performing as though it were ‘giving’, and points to confident eye contact as the way to achieve this relationship with your audience.
If you look away from them, they may simply think you don’t care about them, or your performance. Show them that you do.
Improve audience engagement
It’s not all about the voice when performing; you need to be able to create audience engagement so they’re on your side.
It is important to have a certain presence on stage, which lets the audience know that you are confident in your singing abilities.
Eye contact tips
A study published by PLOS One says that the direction of our eyes often affects the direction that our head faces. So, if your eyes are facing downwards, your head will naturally begin to face that way as well.
This constricts your neck and vocal chords, meaning the quality of your voice gets worse. As well as this, it means you are not projecting outwards, but downwards. Keeping your eyeline towards the audience ensures that your voice is clear and audible.
Practise and perform frequently
It can be tough to make eye contact with your audience if you feel nervous or anxious. The easiest way to fix this is frequent live performances and practice.
Through building your singing and performance skills and frequently performing in front of an audience, you will naturally gain confidence; and because you will begin to expect a positive reaction from the crowd, you are much more likely to enjoy making eye contact and your movement on stage will become noticeably more fluid.
Appropriate eye contact for your performance
Watch other musicians’ performances and see how they engage with eye contact. What you do with your eyes during a performance should be determined by what is artistically appropriate to the song or performance.
Whatever song you perform or your style of music, avoid looking at the ground and frequently engage with your audience visually. This will demonstrate your confidence and give the audience further reason to keep their eyes on you.
If you’re singing a sad song, closing your eyes may be the best way to convey the mood, so don’t be afraid to do this if it is appropriate. There are many situations however when making eye contact with your audience is exactly what is needed to create the most impact emotionally.
If you look them straight in the eye it can make your performance more powerful. Most importantly, let the mood of your song dictate what you do with your eyes.
The exception to the rule
There are times when a singer can express their emotions by diverting their eyes away from the crowd of even closing them altogether. It is important that this happens naturally and is in keeping with both the mood of the song and your own emotions.
Essentially, while eye-contact is important for singers, plus the use of body language, they are also mostly involuntary (it is hard to control them for very long). Therefore, make sure that you choose songs that you can connect with deeply and it is likely that, with practise, the rest will come naturally.
Do you struggle to make eye contact during a singing performance? Let us know in the comments and please consider sharing it with your friends using the links below.