How to Communicate Non-Verbally During Presentations

Whether you realize it or not, much of our communication is nonverbal. In just a single day, we both express and react to thousands of non verbal cues—from facial expressions to posture to gestures to tone of voice.

Between verbal and non-verbal communication, it’s actually the latter who speaks louder. Think about it. If you’re faced with a presenter sending mixed signals—that is, how he’s acting appears different from what he’s saying—which would you likely believe? As with most people, you’re more inclined to know how to communicate non-verbally during presentations, right? Because it’s a more natural, unconscious language that reveals our genuine feelings and intentions.

Hence, to become a more effective presenter, you need to be sensitive not just to nonverbal cues of others but also to your own.

Below are different ways you can communicate non-verbally and positive indicators for each. By non-verbally expressing an open and positive attitude during presentations, you encourage a supportive and collaborative atmosphere between you and your audience:

Face

Even without you speaking a word, consider how much impact a smile or frown can make to your audience. Facial expressions not only comprise a huge aspect of nonverbal communication; they are also the only nonverbal behavior where their meanings do NOT significantly vary across cultures.

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Positive indicators:

  • Establish eye contact with your audience but don’t stare or make them uncomfortable
  • Smile often as this indicates openness, warmth and friendliness

Posture

Aside from your face, be aware of your posture and what it silently communicates.

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Positive Indicators:

  • Avoid turning your back from the audience while presenting
  • Stand up straight but keep your body relaxed
  • Keep your arms and hands open with palms up to show trustworthiness and honesty
  • When directly speaking to someone in the audience, lean slightly forward towards him/her or tilt your head slightly towards their direction to convey interest
  • When having to move, move slowly. It’s one way to portray you’re relaxed, focused and calm

Gestures

Although a highly important way of communicating, gestures are one of the most neglected aspects during presentations as more often than not, we do a lot of these movements and signals unconsciously. But to your audience, these subtle gestures you unknowingly make may appear deliberate.

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Positive Indicators:

  • Limit repetitive movements. These can be distracting to your presentation
  • Rather than allowing gestures to unconsciously take over you while presenting, be intentional with your gestures so you can deliberately take advantage of them to communicate meaning without words

Paralinguistic 

This simply refers to vocal communication that’s apart from what you’re actually saying. It includes nonverbal cues like your tone of voice, loudness, pitch and speed.

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Positive Indicators:

  • There’s not one correct positive indicator for how you should say things as it will depend on your presentation. If you’re trying to make a point, you may want to express yourself in a stronger tone of voice. However, note that paralinguistic is highly dependent on your audience’s background. Whereas one group of audience might interpret a soft voice as lack of enthusiasm, it might be interpreted as respectful or confident by another group of audience belonging to a different culture.

Personal Space

The amount of distance we allot between ourselves and the audience while presenting is also an important type of nonverbal communication. But like most nonverbal aspects, the “appropriate” personal space will depend on factors like social norms, situational factors, familiarity level and personality attributes.

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Positive Indicators:

  • When presenting, the standard personal space is about 10-12 feet. But this may slightly vary depending on your audience size and the level of intimacy you want to establish.  Just ensure you have adequate space to project confidence, credibility and to display appropriate body language.

Other nonverbal communication includes your appearance like the color of the shirt you wear or hairstyle. And as with all other nonverbal communication, they can influence audience interpretation, judgment and response. But again, what’s positive and not will mainly depend on your presentation and your listeners so it’s imperative to know your audience.

Mastering the art of nonverbal communication doesn’t happen overnight and will demand an increasing self-awareness. Be conscious of what your body is capable of. Notice patterns in the way you present. Do mock conversations in front of a mirror. And once you’ve gotten hold of your nonverbal communication during presentations, it’ll be an indispensable skill that can definitely take your presentations to the next level.

Do you have other tips on nonverbal communication to share during presentations? Let us know through your comments below.