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Body Language

My last post was about opening a presentation.  (Thanks for the positive feedback by the way.)  Now I want to talk about body language.  Not just our body language, but that of our audience as well.

First, what about us?  What was it your Mother always told you?  Stand up straight!  (I know, some of you were probably thinking “somebody’s going to lose an eye!”  Mom’s were always worried about our eyes.)  But no, the admonition I want to concentrate on first is “stand up straight”.  This does more than make us look taller.  (Although for some us, it wouldn’t be much help.)  What else does it do?  I allows us to breath better and project our voices.  It provides the diaphragm with the proper space to expand and let our lungs take in air.  Standing up straight also gives you an air of confidence, even if you are feeling a little nervous.

Fifty five percent.  That is how much our body language impacts how people understand what we are saying.  There is long list of visual clues we use to interpret what people are saying.  We don’t even think about it, it’s just how we communicate.  Standing rigid impedes our ability to be understood.  Move.  Use your hands.  Use your body.  All of this movement should be natural, not manic.  Practice this a bit.  Let it flow naturally.  Watch yourself in a mirror or make a video of yourself speaking or presenting.

One tip about body language, or movement.  If you are speaking and/or presenting to a large audience in a large room, you may want to practice exaggerating your body movements.  This allows everyone in the audience to pick up on the clues that help them understand what we are saying.  Think of what a stage actor looks like when you see them come off the stage.  Their makeup is emphasized so that everyone can see their face.  Their movements on the stage are more pronounced.  I’m not suggesting we all use face paint, but we need to be aware of our surroundings and adjust our presentation style accordingly.

Another thing that I would put under the heading of body language is eye contact.  Some books on public speaking suggest, if you are nervous, to focus on the wall at the back of the room.  Don’t do that.  Everyone will be turning around to see what it is you find so fascinating back there.  Instead, try to make eye contact with everyone at some point.  Use the 5 to 8 second rule.  Find someone in the center of the room, and speak directly to him or her for 5 to 8 seconds.
Than find someone on the right side of the room, and do the same thing.  Than return to the center of room, and than to the left, back to the center, etc.  Make everyone feel that, at some point, you were speaking directly to them.  One warning; don’t focus too long on any single person.  I was at an event recently where, because I asked a question, the speaker spoke directly to me for several minutes.  Made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Finally, what about the body language of the audience?  You can’t really control it, but you can influence it.  The eye contact technique is a great way to do this.  It makes them sit up and take notice.  If someone seems to be mentally drifting off, make eye contact and focus in on them, maybe more than once.  Of course, the content and delivery of your presentation should have them riveted to their seats, but sometimes, someone may just be having a bad day.  It happens.

Last point.  Smile.  It makes you feel better, and it makes your audience feel better.  It makes the mood in the room upbeat.

That’s it for today.  If you have any questions or comments, let me know.  If you like this, jump over to my facebook or linkedin page and like or recommend me.  Last thing, if you have anything you would like me to talk about in this blog – let me know.

Thanks!

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