A communicator has to speak in such a way that a particular person in his audience feels that you’re not simply speaking to everybody else; you are speaking to him. This can be accomplished through your eye contact, whether the audience is 50 or 5000.
In pursuing great eye contact with your audience, do not simply look but stare at them! Focus on a particular person and do so for five seconds. In essence, you are pretending like that person is the only one in the audience. After focusing on him or her for five seconds, you move on to another person and do the same, then another and another. This will convey to people that you are looking at them, not over them.
Also, be careful that you don’t keep focusing on the same one person each time your eyes return to that section of the audience. The next time, you may focus on the person behind the first one or the person two rows in front.
Don’t wait, though, until you are in the pulpit. Start this practice when you are on the platform preparing to speak. I look at particular people in the audience and to help my concentration, I begin to ask myself particular questions: I wonder if that teenagers is on drugs? I wonder if that gentleman is facing a lay off at work? I wonder if that couple is having marital struggles? Could it be that that person has just been diagnosed with cancer?
In asking myself these questions, am I judging people or stereotyping them? Absolutely not. For the sake of effective communication, I am simply reminding myself that these are real people living in a real time with real struggles. They are not some general, faceless audience. They are right at this moment my audience. Once again, the effect is that they see me looking at them, not over them.
Some simple “eye discipline” like the above can make the difference.