The right or WRONG body language can make or break a presentation. Whether you’re on or off the stage, using the right body language is critical to your presentation or communication success.
You might only be verbally articulating so much, but a lot of what you don’t say can be conveyed through your body language.
So what are body language presentation skills? What do I mean when I say you must use the “right” body language in a presentation?
You might have a great speech but how you deliver it matters. What tone you’re speaking in, your physical activity level, your movement and energy levels around the stage, how many times you smile, nod, gesture with your hands ad make eye contact with audience members – all this and more counts towards your presentation body language skills.
Carol Kinsey, leadership communication coach, offers 7 vital tips on body language presentation and communication below:
1. Manage your stress level
While you are waiting backstage, notice the tension in your body. Realize that some nervous energy is a good thing – it’s what makes your presentation lively and interesting, but too much stress results in nonverbal behaviors that work against you.
Before you go on stage, stand or sit with your weight “centered” – evenly distributed on both feet or sit bones. Look straight ahead with your chin level to the floor and relax your throat. Take several deep “belly” breaths. Count slowly to six as you inhale and increase the tension in your body by making fists and tensing the muscles in your arms torso and legs. As you exhale, allow your hands, arms and body to release and relax.
2. Get emotional
In order to engage an audience, they need to be emotionally involved. So before you go on stage to deliver your message, concentrate on emotions and feelings. How do you personally emotionally connect with what you are about to say? What do you feel about it? How do you want the audience to feel? (The more you focus on the emotion behind your message, the more convincing and congruent your body language will automatically become.)
3. Make a confident entrance
Staying relaxed, walk out on stage with good posture, head held high, and a steady, smooth gait. When you arrive at center stage, stop, smile, raise your eyebrows and slightly widen your eyes while you look around the room. A relaxed, open face and body tells your audience that you’re confident and comfortable with the information you’re delivering. Since audience members will be reacting to any display of tension, your state of comfort will also relax and reassure them. (This may sound like common sense, but I once worked with a manager who walked onstage with hunched shoulders, a furrowed brow and squinted eyes. I watched the audience squirm in response. It was an unsettling way to begin a “let’s get together and support this change” speech.)
4. Maintain eye contact
Maintain steady eye contact with the audience throughout the talk. If you don’t, you will quickly signal that you don’t want to be there, that you aren’t really committed to your message, or that you have something to hide.
While it is physically impossible to maintain eye contact with the entire audience all the time, you can look at specific individuals or small groups, hold their attention briefly, and then move to another group or individual in another part of the room.
5. Ditch the lectern
Get out from behind the lectern. A lectern not only covers up the majority of your body, it also acts as a barrier between you and the audience. Practice the presentation so well that you don’t need to read from a script. If you use notes, request a video prompter at the foot of the stage.
6. Talk with your hands
Speakers use hand gestures to underscore what’s important and to express feelings, needs and convictions. When people are passionate about what they are saying, their gestures become more animated. That’s why gestures are so critical and why getting them right in a presentation connects so powerfully with an audience. If you don’t use them (if you let your hands hang limply to your sides or clasp them in the classic “fig leaf” position), it suggests you don’t recognize the crucial issues, you have no emotional investment in the issues, or that you’re not an effective communicator.
Human beings (males, most especially) are drawn to movement. Movement keeps an audience from becoming bored. It can be very effective to walk toward the audience before making an important point, and away when you want to signal a break or a change of subject. But don’t move when you are making a key point. Instead, stop, widen your stance, and deliver that important message.
Understand that a well-written speech is only half as important. Effective speakers and oraters are masters of using personal stories and humour, motivating along with the perfect body language presentation skills.
Are you ready to fire up your audience? Click here to learn more about developing your body language presentation skills.