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5 Body Language Techniques to Improve Your Presentations

Communication begins before you even speak. Your body gives essential cues to your audience about your intent, mood, and message. No matter how much public speaking experience you have, you may have found that your body language has often spoken louder than your presentation itself. Let’s walk through 5 key techniques to perfect your next presentation:

1) Posture

Professional dancers are used to hearing their instructors say “energy through the spine.” This energy gives them a beautiful posture people admire and enjoy watching for hours. The same critique can be applied to public speakers. Too rigid and you could be interpreted as tense, uncomfortable or stern. Too loose? You could be seen as unprepared, tired or lackadaisical. To find your ideal posture, stand in front of a mirror. Next, place your feet hip width apart. Bring you energy through the base of the spine, up to head, and engage your core while keeping your head and limbs loose. Your arms should fall gently toward each thigh in a relaxed position without slouching. This is your base position.

2) Positioning

They say never turn your back on a good thing. Likewise, when public speaking never turn away from your audience. Instead, keep your body facing your audience at all times. To acknowledge accompanying visuals, like a white board or projector, you may practice rotating your spine slightly to the side while keeping hips centered with the audience and eyes and head directed forward. If looking at your visual for reference, bring a hand or arm up to direct the audience to also shift focus, welcoming them into the presentation with you.

3) Movement

Move it or lose it. Staying in one place doesn’t serve a presenter well. Rather, steady, even-paced footsteps across a central focal point in the room can help guide listeners along and retain their attention. Movement should occur at natural transition points during your speech. Try moving left to right in a 6 to 10 foot area, as well as moving toward and slightly back from your audience. It’s important you don’t overdue movement as it can become distracting and when done too quickly can give the feeling of nervousness and agitate your audience.

4) Gestures

Gestures are an art of their own, and present themselves as a more particular form of body language than that of whole body movements. Strategic movements of your hands and arms in particular can reinforce your message and actually help your audience retain information. Hands are a main focal point near the face of a speaker and help to draw in attention as he/she speaks.

Take for instance the mention of numbers by using the fingers of your hand. When accompanied by hand gestures, the number 2 or 4 become more meaningful. The audience has now received a verbal and a visual cue. In fact, hand gestures, when done well have been shown to make people 2x more likely to remember your message.

Descriptive, Emphatic (Emotional), and Suggestive Gestures are three popular categories used to enhance your presentation. Our example above, using your fingers to describe numbers is a Descriptive Gesture. Balling the hands up to emphasis you were angry or frustrated during a part of your speech would be an example of an Emphatic Gesture. A Suggestive Gesture could be extending the arms out with palms up to welcome your audience.

Remember, gestures should always match the message. This is an art of congruency and creativity. When practiced regularly, you may find you develop a personal style of gesturing.

5) Eye Contact

It may seem intuitive to share eye contact with your audience, but this essential body language strategy is often miscalculated when presenters finally take the stage. Be sure to be mindful of how much eye contact you are providing your audience with, and how evenly you are distributing it throughout the space. Focusing on one area can alienate other members. Meanwhile, too much eye contact may be given, making certain members of the audience feel uncomfortable. Breaks in eye contact are natural, which can be glances downward, back to your visual aid, to a neutral place in the room, or to your hands. Perfecting this ratio will ensure you are interpreted as energetic, help your audience to remain focused, and provide everyone with a relaxed environment to enjoy and share the message.

By combining these 5 body language techniques you have the foundation for an effective presentation. But don’t stop there. During your next speech, regularly assess you audience’s body language cues to see if they may be disengaging and why. Reengage audience members by breaking up your speech with a question, humor, and by reconnecting with eye contact or moving closer in proximity to disengaged members. After all, your message is only as powerful as the way you deliver it.

Discover more body language tips at our upcoming Presentation Essentials Workshop! This 2-day online workshop is open to the public and takes you through live exercises, immediate feedback and proven techniques to improve your presentations.

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