Eyes can speak without words. It can express love, hate, anger, excitement and so on. Therefore it is the speakers best connect with audiences.
In spite of this fact many beginner speakers fear to look in the eye of people in the audience. They might look up or far away. This is self-defeating as the speaker loses rapport with the audience.
Now part of the problem is caused by feelings of inferiority or loss of confidence. But a larger part of the problem is because the beginning speaker lacks knowledge on what to do on stage to maintain healthy eye contact with audiences.
The basic thing to know is that people expect you to look at them. This shows your confidence, preparedness, openness, as well as your good intention to connect and engage with people sitting in front of you.
The second thing to note is the manner in which eye contact can and does happen. If it is a big audience just send your gaze to the back of the auditorium. Then let it scan towards the front. What you will probably see is a blur of faces. That is how it is.
Once that is done you can give sideways glances. This will make sure that you have the entire audience covered with your eye making contact with them.
As you speak whenever you look to any one part of the auditorium you will feel as if your eyes are interlocking with one or a few people. Everytime you turn in that direction your eyes will interlock with the same person or group (They may or may not be people known to you.). When this connect happens know that everyone in that part of the crowd feels included in your speech.
On the other hand when you are talking to a small group within a room make sure that you look at each person in the eye. If they are seated in a semi circle with you standing in the middle make sure that the people sitting at both ends of the curve are given due notice occasionally. Otherwise they will feel left out, lose interest in your speech, and maybe in the worst case go to sleep.
Having said that, do not gaze at any one person for too long. For 4 to 5 seconds can feel like an eternity when a speaker is looking at one person alone. Especially those who participate in Group Discussions should ensure that they do not engage in a one to one conversation too long. Instead break eye contact with the one to whom you are responding to and look at the entire group as you continue to speak.
Now coming to the positive side of eye contact; you should smile with your eyes. Let the audience know how delighted you are to be with them. As you exhibit ease and confidence through proper eye contact; you will feel the same reflected back to you in a magnified way from the audience
As far as reading from manuscript is concerned, proper eye contact is the key to its success. You might have seen American Presidents do that in a thorough professional manner for their inaugural address. The secret is to look at a group of words and deliver them looking at the audience. A well-prepared document in big point size with wide margins and typed in double space is a must for this. So also many rehearsals will make it look natural; full of energy and enthusiasm, and make it look stunningly confident.
Well, you may not have the expertize of a classical dancer to express a variety of moods with your eyes. But with a little practice you can show delight with a twinkling eye. A stare can communicate anger, hatred, resentment or rebellion. A far away look can signal disinterestedness, dejection, wishfulness or sadness. Yes the eyes can speak volumes without words.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth