The Piercing Gaze

I’d like to put the PaaP Test to a test.

I’ve been in a lot of presentations where the presenter made morbidly intense or prolonged eye contact with the audience.  In one particularly uncomfortable pitch, the presenter had somewhat bulgy eyes and, in addition, was making unremitting eye contact with me.  I probably didn’t hear a word of his pitch.

Let us call this behavior The Piercing Gaze.

I know where it comes from, of course.  The presenter has been told to make eye contact with the audience, and (s)he believes you can’t have too much of a good thing.

And I think that putting this pitch behavior to the PaaP Test is pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel.  But let’s try.

Say you’re at a party.  A stranger comes up to you, looks you fixedly in the eye, introduces himself, shakes your hand, and proceeds to make some pleasant small talk about the party, drops in some tasteful biographic information about himself, and so forth.  He asks your questions, listens to your answers, and generally carries on well.

Except that he’s staring you in the eyes without moving his gaze the whole time.

We’d be somewhere between alarmed and creeped-out.  But more importantly, nothing else he did would make any difference.  We wouldn’t want to spend a second more with him than we had to.  We’d make some lame excuse the moment we could and flee.

There’s an exercise that people do in Ropes Courses kinds of groups (remind to talk about them some time) where you pair off and stare into one another’s eyes for a minute.  Very intense.  Maybe very revealing.  Definitely not a way to get the Other to relax, trust you a bit, and listen to what you have to say.

A good conversationalist at a party makes eye contact rhythmically: maybe at the beginning of a paragraph, a couple of times (with a smile or an ironic look) in the middle, and then as a closer at the end.

That’s the right way to make eye contact in a pitch.  It’s the PaaP-Test approved way.

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