When you’re presenting people are watching you. In fact, it’s why so many people are anxious about public speaking. We are all a little self-conscious about something – it’s human nature. This becomes amplified when speaking in front of a large, public audience and is an essential part of any presentation.
It never ceases to amaze me about how little is said about the importance body language when it comes to mastering the art of public speaking. So much of what we do today, including forming our opinions of someone else, is based on what we see. To that end I feel that your body language is in integral part of your path to speaking excellence and requires its own discipline. There are a variety of “do’s” and “dont’s” when it comes to body language that we’ll cover in this blog post. Keep in mind that it can take time to notice and eliminate some of your non-verbal habits that may undermine your public speaking success.
Audience members judge you based on what they see and hear. In public speaking, your body can be an effective tool for adding emphasis and meaning to what you say and can be leveraged to make an impact. It’s also your most powerful tool for persuading and audience of your sincerity and enthusiasm. The old saying, “what you do speaks volumes” comes to mind. Let’s cover a few of the more important aspects of using effective body language during your presentation.
Focus your attention. The first place to being is with how you face and address the audience. If you want listeners to give you there attention, you must first give them your attention. This all begins with a smile, eye contact, and “working the room.” Even if you choose to stand behind a podium, you must make an intention effort to address different sections of the room so everyone feels as if you’re speaking to them.
Never turn your back. If you want to make an impact, then never turn your back on the audience. Some speakers may think it’s cute to walk through the audience or to the back of the room, but it’s uncomfortable and people will have their backs to you – not a good thing. Always stand in front of your audience and make it easy for them (everyone in the room) to see you.
Minimize anxiety. If you’re still refining your public speaking abilities and still show signs of anxiety, it’s best to put down the visual aids. Any shaking can come across as insecurity, anxiety, and a general show of nervousness. You always want to appear relaxed in front of your audience. To do so, avoid holding things or displaying items that clearly show how anxious you are.
Vary tone and speed. When speaking about body language, most people gravitate towards arm movement or pacing across a stage. But body language also refers to your tone and the speed that you deliver your message. People who are anxious may talk fast for example. Therefore, you want to be cognizant of how quickly you’re speaking – slow it down. Also, don’t just speak in a monotone voice, vary it a bit. By using different inflexion, you can engage your audience and create meaning.
Look at the audience. No one wants to watch you read your presentation. As such, you shouldn’t keep your head down. As I mentioned earlier, make eye contact with the audience and focus your attention around the room, not on your notes. Occasionally looking at your notes is expected, but don’t read them word for word.
Effective public speaking takes more than a good speech. Body language is important for conveying a message effectively. Always think about the messages that your non-verbal communication conveys. This is best done through rehearsal. Practice your speech in front of the mirror and notice how you stand, project, and move. Over time, work to refine your body language to be congruent and supportive of the message you want to deliver,