The Power of Body Language and How it Can Make or Break Your Presentation

Body language can affect how we feel, our thoughts, and our motivation. How can we utilize our stance to further help us as speakers and maximize the effectiveness of our communication with an audience?

–       Assume a power pose

  • Before presenting, hold your body in an expansive, high power pose (lean back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk; stand with legs and arms stretched wide open) for a minimum of 2 minutes. This stimulates higher levels of testosterone and lowers cortisone and can help us stand up straight and give a boost of confidence.

–       Walk around

  • Walking can help our posture by stretching out our body and recharge our muscles. Before you present, take a few laps and imagine a string running through your body and pulling your back to align straight. Roll your shoulders back and begin reciting your speech. If your body begins to shrink when you speak, focus on keeping your body long and upright.

–       Breathe

  • Slumping closes the chest and reduces our ability to breathe freely, causing us to feel tired. Be conscious of your breath and make sure your posture is allowing you to breathe fully and deeply. Breathing brings oxygen to our blood and wakes up our muscles. Before presenting, take deep breathes for a minute, focusing on expanding your lungs and slowly breathing out. You can try a box breath — in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds. Breathing out for more counts than inhaling will relax you. Contrary, inhaling for more counts will give you energy.

–       Practice yoga

  • The morning before your speech, practice yoga to give your muscles a stretch and reset your posture and mind. Yoga is known to relax the mind, as well as strengthen muscles and improve endurance. Yoga will strengthen your back and core over time. Even if you don’t have much time to dedicate to yoga – try just 10 minutes before you start your day. You will notice how stretching wakes your body up and significantly enhances your back posture.

–       Rid of barriers

  • Often times, we are allotted a podium or other barriers that allows us to hide from our audience. However, we want our full body to be exposed for greater authenticity. Studies show that observers have greater success judging a persons real emotional state when they can see the entire body. In order to translate their message effectively, the speaker should be 100% transparent to their audience – don’t hide, but instead use your posture and full body language to aid in your speech. A senior executive once stated he could evaluate how secure individuals felt by how high they held their coffee cups – the higher and more obvious (creating a barrier), the more insecure they appeared.

–       Smile

  • More importantly, smile genuinely. Being authentic and smiling shows your own sense of well-being, and makes you appear trustworthy and approachable. Additionally, smiling directly at people influences how others respond. Facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, thus the smile you give usually causes them to return one, which positively changes that person’s emotional state of mind. [4]

In addition to ways we can enhance our body language, there are certain gestures presenters should avoid. Steer clear of these actions, which can undermine the perception of our trustworthiness.

–       Crossing your arms

  • Crossing your arms creates a defensive barrier and closes your off from your audience, making you appear detached and lessening our credibility as a speaker. Open up your body so you can incorporate hand gestures and appear inviting and trusting.

–       Leaning away from your audience

  • Leaning away from your audience disengages you and makes you appear as if you are avoiding contact, running away, or aloof. Leaning inwards makes us appear interested and engaged, and expresses the desire to be close.

–       Touching your face

  • To touch your face is to mask your face, and to mask your face is to hide your expression, a commonality that causes audiences to lose trust in a speaker.

–       Hand-touching

  • Touching your hands makes you appear nervous or tentative. Similarly, this movement can make you look like you are hiding something or putting up a boundary between you and your audience which lessens credibility.

–       Shifting your weight

  • Often times, body gesture in the legs and feet can be the most revealing, since they are typically overlooked and go unrehearsed (people typically are not worried about the actions of their feet when they are practicing a presentation). However, increased anxiety triggers movement and shifting of weight. Fidgeting, shuffling, and curing the toes reveal nervousness. Practice standing still or occasionally walking around in your presentation to control your movement and make it appear natural. 

[4] Source  

[5] Source

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