9 Ways You Can Use Body Language to Improve Your Presentation
A post from our Presentation Skills blog
Written by Ashley Andrews
One of the most important components of a successful presentation is making the right impression on your audience. This includes things like being punctual, well-prepared and organized, dressing well and speaking well. However, even if you get all these things right, there is one factor that is even more important – and that is your body language.
Powerful body language, the right dressing style and effective delivery creates a potent formula for business presentation success. To help you achieve this success, I have put together a list of 9 tips on how you can use your body language to improve your presentation.
1. Take a deep breath
Just before you enter the presentation room, take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth. If there aren't any people around, try making an "ahh" sound. When you do this, it releases all the tension in your shoulders, jaw and neck, which in turn will make you look less tense and rigid.
2. Pay attention to your facial expressions
Just like the position of your body, your facial expressions can affect your emotions as well. For instance, smiling can make you feel more positive and confident. In addition, when you smile, your audience will feel more at ease too, making it much easier for you to build rapport with them.
Unfortunately, your facial expressions can change even without you realising. For instance, when you are concentrating on something on your computer screen for a long period of time, there's a distinct possibility that you'll end up frowning. Therefore it's important for you to "reset" your facial expressions before you start your presentation; after all, you don't want that frown to interfere with how effectively you deliver the presentation.
3. Use your voice effectively
Many people question whether voice is related to body language, but it is. Your voice is a physical attribute and so becomes a very important part of effective body language. As a matter fact, apart from your brain, the most flexible communication tool you own is your voice. Your tone, volume and intonation all complement your body language, and vocal expressiveness helps indicate intention and meaning.
4. Keep stress at bay
Anxiety and stress can make you frown, cross your arms or slouch, and this creates a vicious circle of sorts. The expression on your face and the position of your body gets fed back to your brain and then influences the way you feel; which in turn changes your body language.
5. Use the right gestures
It's a proven fact that people are drawn to gestures, so it's important that you move when you speak. Presenters who make hand gestures while they speak are seen as more competent and effective than those who keep their hands still. If you have a very stoic demeanour, people will lose interest in what you are saying, regardless of how interesting and relevant it is.
6. Move around
While speaking, try to move around a little – but not excessively – just enough to get people's attention. If you want to make more of an impact, move towards your audience before making a key point and make sure that you make eye contact with them. Don't look just at one or two people, though – your gaze should move seamlessly across different people in the audience. Similarly, when you are changing the subject or want to signal a break, move away from the audience. Use space effectively to reinforce your ideas.
For example, if you are presenting a number of different topics within a single presentation, move into a different physical position while talking about each of them. If there is sufficient space, move to a different area of the podium while you are talking about different things. When you combine physical pauses with the right amount of movement, you end up making more of an impact.
7. For a decisive look, rotate your palms down
Any gestures you make with your palms exposed indicate that you're open and willing to discuss a particular point. However, when you position your palms down, it's an indication that you're not open to any discussion. Many people use this technique whenever they have a strong opinion about something. Placing both of your hands and palms down on or just above the conference table (or any other surface, depending on where your presentation is) indicates authority as well.
8. Widen your stance
Widening your stance is crucial if you want to look dynamic. Also, keep in mind that your voice doesn't just come from your mouth, it is projected from your whole body. So, in order to become a much more dynamic speaker, make sure to stand with your feet hip-width apart and firmly planted on the floor, and your weight evenly distributed.
This is often referred to as the "power posture". As you open up your body and fill in more space, you will find that your confidence is getting a distinct boost. Some studies have also shown that when you spend more time in such a posture, it increases testosterone, pain tolerance, risk-taking and your belief in your own leadership abilities. In addition, this broad stance automatically calms down your nervous system, helping you to breathe with ease and it amplifying your voice.
9. Use hand-held devices smartly
You may not realise this, but even the size of the computer you are using in the presentation can actually change your posture (and consequently, your behaviour). You are more likely to be confident when you spend time in an open posture using a PC or laptop. Using a phone-sized device or a tablet only constricts your posture and can have a negative impact on your confidence.
As you can see from the tips above, there are a number of factors that can affect your body language. It may not always be easy, but when you know what these factors are, you can learn to control them and control the way you express yourself, move and gesticulate.
Do you have any other tips on how to use body language to improve your presentation? Let us know in the comments below!
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