The Price of Connection

Jay-Z-Eye-CommHow do you put a price or value on connection? On being present?

Jay-Z is a genius and talent in music who is practically unequaled. As I watched him as a guest on David Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, I was fascinated by the subject matter they covered—a discussion that had little to do with music at all. Intelligence and insight from two iconic figures. As I watched and listened, I realized how amazing Jay-Z is at speaking, listening and relating in a simple one-on-one conversation—and SO much of that is through his eye communication.

Because of what I do, I might be a little more observant—but I’m confident that everyone can see it and identify with it. It’s why eye communication is THE #1 behavioral skill we focus on. It makes or breaks a connection with an audience, whether we’re speaking one-on-one or to 1000 people. Yet most people don’t know what they do with their eyes. Their habits are to dart their eyes around and not really focus on any one person. Even in one-on-one conversations, we tend to look away while we gather our thoughts, and look at our listener much less.

The goal is to stick with the 5-second rule. When you’re speaking to a group of people, hold your eyes on one person for five seconds, then move to another person. You can go longer during a one-on-one (seven to 10 seconds), but you do need to break it up or else it can come across as too intimate or possibly too intimidating.

The value of great eye communication was confirmed to me last week by a client. She is a finance leader, and she shared a story about giving a speech to a women’s affinity group. Afterward, one of the attendees came up to her and said, “Thank you for that speech, I loved what you had to say and more so you made me realize something. We’ve had our financial advisor for several years, and he doesn’t look at me. He only looks at my husband, and he calls for my husband—and it’s dismissive. You looked me right in the eyes, and I appreciate that. I think we’re going to move our assets over to you.”

Within a week, this woman moved $100 million to my client’s firm. Eye communication may not seem like it’s worth that much to most of us, but the price of connection, in this case, was huge.

Start working on being aware of what you do with your eyes to connect with your audience. Jay-Z’s worth of over $1 billion isn’t due to his eye communication, but it doesn’t hurt either!