You’ve done the legwork and prepared an out-of-the-ballpark presentation. Your powerpoint slides are on point. All systems are a-go, right? Not quite. Before you get up in front of an audience, you need to understand how the body language you convey can make or break a speech. When you get up in front of a large audience, adrenaline starts to kick in. You may stiffen up and not “act like yourself”. Let’s be honest: speaking in front of groups, no matter how small or large, is no easy task. When you’re nervous, it’s all too easy to freeze up – and when you freeze up, that amazing speech you spent hours putting together falls flat.
As it’s been frequently said that 99% of body language is communication, it’s important to pay attention to how you use your body to communicate during a presentation? Further, how can you avoid conveying your stage fright to an audience? First off, it’s a good idea to memorize your speech. Sure, you may not remember every single word – but knowing it inside and out will help give you greater confidence (plus, you’ll be less glued to your cards). You’ll naturally look and feel more relaxed and engaging.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the 5 body language biggest secrets for improving your presentation and bringing your delivery to the next level.
Body Language Secret #1: Gestures/Physical Movement
Stage actors and actresses know this secret well: you need to exaggerate your movements to engage your audience. Match your body language to the content you are delivering. For example, if you are trying to convey an open-ended idea, go ahead and gesture with open arms. If you want to communicate a powerful position, raise a hand or arm to show your authority. Or, if you want to appear approachable, you can keep your arms by your side as this gesture doesn’t convey a strong emotion.
Body Language Secret #2: Own Your Space
Pay attention to the area around you when you get up in front of your audience. That physical space is yours for the duration of your presentation: make it your home. How you move across the space will send a strong message to your audience – and you want that message to be a positive one.
Instead of standing in one spot, move around the space you occupy. Doing so conveys the message that you are comfortable in your skin – and confident. Of course, you don’t want to move so much that you end up taking away from the points you are communicating, but some movement is necessary to keep your audience awake and listening.
Body Language Secret #3: Give Yourself Some Props?
Whether it’s a coffee mug or a computer, don’t let a prop (as it’s called in the theater) take away from your presentation. You can use your props to your advantage by knowing when it’s appropriate and when to hold back. For example, if you are delivering a PowerPoint presentation, don’t rely on it to do the work for you. Refer back to it, but look at your audience, make eye contact, and stay engaged in your speech.
The point here is: don’t do things for the sake of doing them. Don’t rely on handouts or technology if it’s not absolutely necessary to your presentation. Stay focused on the presentation itself – if you let props take over, you’re doing yourself, and your audience, a disservice.
Body Language Secret #4: Express Yourself
What’s the first thing you notice about another person? It may be their smile or the twinkle in their eyes. In getting ready for your presentation, don’t forget that your face tells a story your words can’t. Humans are naturally drawn to look at the human face – and all eyes will be on your face during the presentation.
Actively remember to smile, to frown and to convey emotion with your face. Squint if you want to show consternation. Frown if you want to display dissatisfaction. Your facial expressions are an important way to connect with your audience on a deeper level – so use them to your advantage. A great way to master your facial expressions is to practice your speech in the mirror a few times, paying attention to the message you are conveying.
Body Language Secret #5: What’s Your Audience’s Body Language?
Your audience’s physical body language is an excellent way to gauge how engaged they are. Take a look around the room…are people on the edge of their seats? Are they nodding in agreement? Are they slouched down and all but falling asleep? Respond to your audience’s body language with body language of your own.
For instance, if your audience looks sleepy – throw some strong gestures in and move around your space to perk them up. On the other hand, if your audience is engaged, build on their enthusiasm and recognize it by flashing a smile.
To sum up, a great presentation is the sum of several parts: research, delivery, technology, preparation and…body language. Though it’s easy to get caught up in the research and prep work, don’t neglect the importance of nonverbal communication. Remember that the way you use your body during a presentation can make or break your success…. Go get ‘em!