Communicating with body language

All speakers feel a little nervous, at least when starting a presentation. That is quite natural. As the speaker, you are the centre of attention and you know that everybody is looking at you. What you need to communicate is a feeling of confidence and relaxation. Your body can help you to do this. The clothes you wear, the way you stand or walk, your facial expressions, your hand and arm movements – these are the language of your body, your body language. The correct body language goes a long way in increasing the effectiveness of a speech.


Body language communicates at least as much as words. Even when you are not speaking, even before you start speaking, your body is communicating to your audience.


Actors use body language very effectively. They cannot act without body language. Every time you watch a film on television or in the cinema, you are watching actors using body language to convey a particular character, an emotion, a feeling, a situation.


1. Appearance

First of all, your appearance (clothes, hair etc)! It is essential that you dress appropriately and have well-groomed hair. Your audience will be distracted if your clothes are sloppy or flashy.


2. Look at the Audience

It is easier said than done but looking at the audience while speaking is very important. The reactions of the audience tell a speaker if they are interested in the speech or not. When the audience stops looking at the speaker it clearly indicates that they are not listening. While speaking to small groups, a speaker should look at all the members of the group and maintain eye contact with them, including those sitting at the extreme left or right side. While speaking to a large group, eye contact can be maintained with the group by looking at them in the shape of alphabet M or W. Eye contact is essential if the speaker wants to retain the interests of the audience in what is being said.


3. Smile

When you enter, or as you are being introduced, smile warmly. Not too much! It should be a warm and sincere smile. You may feel nervous at this time. But this is when the audience is assessing and analyzing you. So stand erect and remain calm. A good public speaker should learn how to smile with eyes. It can be learnt by practice though initially it can be quiet difficult especially when the speaker is somewhat nervous. Smiling while speaking creates an impression that the speaker is happy even if he is not. It is also surprising to not how very often the audience also smiles back.


4. Avoid creating barriers

It is always tempting to hide behind a desk or a lectern, especially for those speakers who face nervousness while speaking publicly but in order to make the speech more effective it is very important that a speaker gets as near the audience as possible.


5. Stand upright

A speaker should find the most comfortable position for standing while speaking with the public but leaning up against furniture or standing with hands in pockets should be avoided strictly. Usually the best position is to stand straight with feet slightly apart.


6. Pointing Figures

Do not point your finger at the audience. This can seem very aggressive. If you want to use your hands, show your open palms with your hands spread wide. This is generally an appealing, positive gesture.

7. Maintain eye contact.

Make eye contact with every person in the room. Do not look only at one person. Look at each person individually, as though you are talking to that person as an individual. Would you buy a car from a car salesman who refused to look at you when talking to you?


8. Do not walk around too much.

It may make you feel better to walk up and down like a lion in a cage, but it is distracting for your audience. However, you can certainly walk a little, change your position occasionally, perhaps to make an important point or just to add variety to your presentation.


9. Stay clear of distracting mannerisms

It is common for most of us to use our hands while speaking and we should continue with it during speaking publicly but gesture like waving your arms should be avoided as these can distract the audience. Jingling coins or keys in pockets or clanking jewelry can also distract the audience. If the audience is distracted it becomes difficult for them to concentrate on what is being said to them.


10. Be natural

It is also difficult especially for the first time public speaker but with time one learns to stop worrying about himself and concentrate on the message that has to be delivered through the speech.


11. Control your voice

Speak slowly and clearly. To underline a special point, go even more slowly. Repeat a sentence if it is important. That’s right. Repeat a sentence if it is important. You can also say the same thing again in a different way. Let your voice go up and down in volume (speak loudly, then quietly). And – sometimes – you can just stop speaking completely. Say nothing for a short time. A silent pause is a very powerful way of communicating.


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