by: Ellen Egan
Body language is an integral part of public speaking. Research has found that people will develop their first impressions of you in 7 seconds. During presentations, you may not even be speaking during these first few seconds. So, a lot of the audience members’ first impression of you will depend on your body language.
Further research has indicated that as much as 93 % of communication between people is nonverbal. Body language includes how you stand and move, your facial expressions, where you are positioned in relation to other people and even what you are wearing. All of these things can send messages to other people about you. A classic example is how hair length can send a message about a person’s politics.
There has been extensive research into body language. it would be worthwhile to study body language in order to better understand the powerful messages that you may be sending your audience. Realize that you are using your body to get your message across in public speaking and sometimes it sends a stronger message than your words.
A few things to keep in mind about body language and public speaking (especially the critical first impressions):
1. Facial expression: Smile, smile, smile. As people enter the room be sure to smile at them. They will then know that they are welcome and will assume that you are friendly, relaxed and confident.
2. Eye contact: We all know that it is critical to make eye contact with your audience during your presentation. it shows that you are confident, helps people to perceive you as an expert and gives the audience the impression tha tyou are interested in them and honest. it is also important before your presentation to make eye contact with your audience. If you are staring at your nots, avoiding your audinece, out of the room, or speaking with only one participant you may be giving the wrong message. This can be interpreted as signs of a lack of confidence, dishonesty or lack of caring.
3. Positioning: I would always recommend standing as this sends a message of confidence. You will also want to consider coming out from behind the podium as the podium can put a barrier between you and your audience.
4. Gestures: When you a practicing your presentation, watch your gestures. Pay attention to using gestures that are open and making a connection with your audience. Try to avoid crossing your arms, both hands in your pockets, jingling keys and change in your pockets, etc. As these send messages of impatience and closing yourself off from your audience. Another big thing to remember is please, never check your watch during your presentation. This sends a message to your audience that you want to be somewhere else and are impatient to get there.
5. Attire: I would rather not give a long list of what not to wear. Here are some quick rules for your attire. Be sure everything is clean and pressed (if appropriate). Try to dress just a little more formally than your audience. Also, think of comfort when you are choosing your attire. It doesn’t help your confidence if you are uncomfortable. Pay attention to your personal hygiene as this sends a message about your self respect.
As I mentioned earlier, you should consider learning more about body language as this will improve all of your communications, not just in public speaking situations.
I would highly recommend Kevin Hogan’s courses on Body Language.
Here are some books I can recommend from Allan Pease, Tonya Reiman and Mark Bowden:
It’s a fascinating subject, don’t be surprised when you get hooked.
To your success,