Body language can really make or break your presentation! It can help you convey better your message, and make a more memorable presentation. But it can also betray you and make you give the wrong impression to your audience. Body language is a vital tool for any presentation you can possibly think of. Learn how to use it to your advantage and make the most out of it with these practical tips.
It’s generally accepted that non-verbal communication makes a huge impact on the message you’re trying to convey. But do you know how much exactly? According to Professor Albert Mehrabian, the actual words you speak make only 7% of the communication. Tone and voice play a bigger role, around 38%. And according to Mehrabian, body language is the most important element of communication, making up to 55%.
Presentation body language is especially important as it can help emphasize your message. Or it can doom your presentation altogether. Even if you’ve prepared an excellent speech, body language in your presentation can betray your nervousness and lack of confidence, for example. Despite this, very few people actually make the effort of learning how to make presentation body language work to their advantage.
It is an amazing, untapped tool that can completely change your presentation, so why not use it? Just like any other skill, body language is all about practice and gaining experience. Although it can be hard to change at first, you can start by following these practical, specific tips for presentation body language.
Body Language Influences People’s Perceptions
First things first. Why is body language important in a presentation? Short and simple, because it can alter the outcome! People are naturally inclined to react badly when the body language contradicts the message you are trying to convey. So, for example, when doing a sales pitch, you must go in confident that your product is the best option out there. However, if your body language conveys insecurity and nervousness, your audience is less likely to believe in your message.
Conveying confidence is essential, and it’s all up to non-verbal communication to achieve this. It’s vital that you make your audience believe in what you’re saying. For example, if your presentation body language and voice tone convey enthusiasm, it’s more likely for your audience to believe in your product and also be enthusiastic about it.
Change Your Own Mindset With Body Language
But even more importantly, presentation body language can even influence how you feel. It might sound extreme but it’s true! You can check out Amy Cuddy’s classic TED Talk to learn more about this point. She argues that similarly to how positive body language can convey confidence to our audience, forcing ourselves to assume “power poses” can help us feel more confident in ourselves too. In short, fake it till you make it!
Stage fright is a very common fear for many people all around the world. And the higher the stakes of our presentation, the more nervous we become. Good presentation by language can help you face this fear. You’ll not only look more confident, you’ll feel more confident. And the more confident you feel, the more confident you’ll look for your audience! It’s a virtuous cycle that will help you reassure yourself, and therefore, improve your overall presentation.
Presentation Body Language Tips
The ideal body language for presentation is all about openness. Depending on the specific situation and context of your presentation, you might want to look more authoritative or more approachable. But overall, the number one rule of presentation body language is to remain open.
Open body language refers to gestures and stances that will make you seem more approachable and trustworthy. Keeping your chest towards the audience for example, or your fists unclenched are classic examples of “open” body language. Keeping eye contact is another great example: it shows that you are sincere and interested in establishing a dialogue.
“Close” body language, on the other hand, makes you look defensive and sometimes even aggressive. For example, crossing your arms in front of your chest. It usually conveys defensiveness and “hiding” behind something, as it puts a barrier between you and the audience. The more open and “vulnerable” you look, the more confident and sincere you will look, as your audience will get the feeling that you have nothing to hide or to feel nervous about.
Here are some practical tips on how to get a more “open” body language for your next presentation:
Posture is basic for a good presentation body language and to feel confident with yourself. The natural reaction when feeling nervous or insecure is to shrink, to make yourself look smaller. So avoid it at all costs!
- Stand straight! This might seem like an obvious one, but it can make all the difference. Slouching can make you look not only insecure but also lazy.
- Reinforce this by pushing your shoulders back and your chin slightly up. This will help you make sure that you’re not hunching over. And, it will help you keep your eyes off the floor, which can feel very tempting when you’re nervous.
- The classic “Superhero Pose” is a perfect example of a confident stance!
- Own the stage. When doing a presentation, many people look like if they cannot wait for the moment to get down. Moving around is a great way to own the space and make yourself look more confident.
- Even if there’s a podium, avoid standing sill behind it, as it creates a barrier between you and the audience, in other words, a “closed” body language.
B) Hand Movements
Hand movements are a vital tool to get your point across and to put emphasis on the most important points of your presentation.
- Just like all the other presentation body language, hand movements must show openness and trustworthiness too. Gestures like clenched fists showcase aggressiveness and frustration. Fidgeting and holding your hands in front of your groin might convey nervousness and submissiveness.
- Showing your palms is the best gesture to convey sincerity and honesty!
- Hand movements can actually be used as a memory technique. You can use specific gestures to make your message more memorable to your audience and aid yourself through your presentation.
C) Facial Expressions and Eye Contact
Finally, facial expressions must convey openness too! Showing energy and enthusiasm is vital for your audience to feel enthusiastic too about your presentation and product. And it’s nearly impossible to show enthusiasm with a poker face!
- Smile! This is one of the easiest things you can do. Smiles are contagious, so it’s likely that people will smile back. Even if a smile doesn’t fit the entirety of your presentation, it’s a great way to start when introducing yourself, for example. It lights the mood and it relieves stress. So it might even help you feel more confident in yourself too!
- Eye contact is a must when it comes to presentation body language. It acknowledges the person in front of you, indicates you’re listening and interested in what the other persona is saying, and it builds trust with your audience. Eye contact is usually connected to trust and sincerity, so it’s vital in any presentation.
- Allow yourself to feel emotions during your presentation. Keeping a straight face can feel tempting if you’re afraid your feelings of nervousness might betray you, or if you feel it gives your presentation a more “professional” feel. However, a blank facial expression will likely only make your presentation boring, and even more, will probably create a disconnection between you and your audience.
Practice Your Presentation Body Language
Presentations’ body language can vary a lot depending on your own presentation style and the context in which you’re presenting. But like any other skill, it’s vital to practice it. Feeling nervous when facing an audience is a completely normal reaction, but it’s up to you to learn how to control the body language that may betray this. And even more importantly, learn how to use it to your advantage. Body language can not only make you look more confident but also feel more confident.
There’s no easy way to learn the correct presentation body language aside from gaining experience. Practicing is vital, even without an audience. Record yourself and analyze how you look. Do you look confident? Nervous? Do you fidget unconsciously? You can even look at presentations from other public speakers or watch TED Talks. It’s a great way to see what works for other people and what you can apply in your own presentations. It takes effort to change something that is as unconscious and body language, but the possibilities it offers definitely make it worth it!
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