Public speaking is a lot more than knowing what you’re going to say. You also need to know how to use your body effectively when delivering your message.
Body language can help you connect better with your audience, maintain your personal image, and even help you relax if you let it. Body language isn’t just about being presentable or looking professional, either.
The right body language can mean the difference between a good presentation and a great presentation.
In this article, you’ll find 9 body language tips that will help you improve your public speaking.
1. Body Language and Power Poses
Your body language can give you a major edge in the business world.
The right pose increases testosterone levels, which in turn increases your confidence and assertiveness — making it easier to connect with people, negotiate, and close deals.
Here are some of the best poses to help you feel more confident:
The Superman. When you’re feeling stressed or intimidated, try standing tall with your hands on your hips and your elbows pointing out a bit. This is a power pose that will make you feel more confident and assertive.
The Wonder Woman. If you want to convey confidence, try putting your hands on your hips (or holding them out like Wonder Woman). You might find yourself speaking up more often.
The Ventral Fronting. Want to appear more confident in social situations? Try ventral fronting — putting one foot forward and slightly toward the other person.
This position makes you look relaxed and open, which makes it easier for others to approach you.
The Napoleon Complex.
Want to look more confident? Stand at an angle in front of the person you’re talking to instead of directly facing them.
This stance suggests that you have nothing to hide, which makes it easier for others to trust you (especially if there’s something nervous about your demeanor).
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2. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, like you’re ready to punch someone if they mess with you. Seriously—standing this way is a sign of confidence. (Of course, we don’t actually want you to start throwing punches.)
Next, press your shoulders back so that your spine is in line with your ears and the back of your head.
This will help open up your chest, ensuring that you look confident and comfortable.
Finally, focus on keeping your chin up slightly; don’t allow it to bob down or point upwards too much.
Your goal should be to keep it parallel with the floor.
If you’re not sure about how you look when standing straight and tall like this, find a mirror or a window where you can see yourself from the side—use any reflective surface that’s available!
Practice standing with proper posture every day until it becomes second nature.
A few minutes each day over several weeks should do it!
3. Avoid a fake smile
Be sure to smile genuinely. Smiling at the beginning of your presentation is a great way to show you are happy to be there, but don’t force it.
Don’t worry if you aren’t feeling it—the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to present confidently and give off good vibes.
A genuine smile shows your audience you are happy to be there, which can help put their minds at ease and make them feel more comfortable as they listen to you speak in Public.
A fake smile can be very obvious and make people feel wary or even uneasy.
4. Keep your hands at your sides. Avoid crossing or fidgeting with them
Now, this is one you might be familiar with, but it’s a good one to keep going back to if you start getting nervous in front of an audience. Keeping your hands at your sides will make you look more confident; it also prevents any unnecessary actions from happening as a result of nerves.
It’s important to prevent yourself from crossing your arms across your chest or waist, as this can make you seem defensive and closed-off.
Similarly, having your hands in your pockets can have the same effect (and can be distracting for the audience).
If you absolutely must do something with them, clasping them behind your back shows confidence and keeps them out of sight—but don’t swing them around too much!
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5. Move about a bit
You can avoid standing rigidly in one place by moving about a bit. Natural movement lets you use your body language to help you convey your message.
- Move naturally, don’t force yourself to move. If you feel that the audience is disengaging, then move around the stage more and make eye contact with different people. Use gestures and other positive nonverbal cues when you are speaking to connect with the audience.
- Be careful not to move so much that it distracts from your message.
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6. Pause for emphasis
When it comes to effective public speaking, pauses are your friend. Beyond the obvious benefits of giving yourself time to breathe, pauses can be used in a variety of ways:
- To let your audience absorb your message
- To emphasize key points
- To let them think about the question you have asked or allow them to respond.
7. Use open and confident hand gestures to emphasize points
When you’re speaking to an audience, your hands should be visible and expressive, but not distracting. If your hands are constantly moving around the podium or lectern, you can detract from your message.
However, using your hands to emphasize key points is essential to engaging an audience.
Don’t be afraid of drawing attention to them; just don’t make them the center of attention.
You shouldn’t fidget as a nervous habit while you’re speaking publicly. Instead, use hand gestures with purpose.
Avoid pointing at your audience or looking down at notes too often.
Including gestures that are considered rude in some cultures may offend the sensibilities of some audience members, so err on the side of caution when deciding which body language techniques you will use during your speech.
8. Use your arms naturally
People often tell presenters to keep their hands out of their pockets and make sure they don’t fidget.
But this is an example of good intentions gone too far: these are natural things we all do when we talk, and you shouldn’t focus on controlling your arms.
Instead, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself with a camera—you’ll be able to see what’s happening naturally for you.
If your arms are moving freely and naturally, don’t try to change them!
That said, there are some gestures that it’s probably better to avoid while speaking. For instance, holding your hands behind your back can appear confrontational—and you’re not helping yourself by hiding them.
Also, avoid putting your hands in your pockets; the presenter who keeps her hands tucked away makes people wonder what she’s trying to hide.
9. Make eye contact with each person in the room at least once while speaking
- Make eye contact with each person in the room at least once while speaking
Imagine sitting through a speech by a speaker who never looks at you as he or she speaks.
You would feel as if they were talking AT you, rather than TO you. However, when they make eye contact with you while speaking to you, even if just for a few short seconds, it helps create the feeling that what they are saying is directed at and meant for YOU.
This creates an intimate feeling that makes everyone feel more comfortable and included in the presentation.
It’s okay to look down at your notes occasionally (though keep it brief!).
On the other hand, don’t stare directly at any one person too long – no more than 3-4 seconds per person – as this will make them feel uncomfortable or singled out from the rest of the audience.
Don’t look up at the ceiling or over people’s heads either; this gives the appearance that you are looking for someone else in the audience or otherwise not paying attention to your listeners
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These tips will help you speak more confidently and clearly
When it comes to effective public speaking, your body language is just as important as the words you choose to use.
Confident presenters use their bodies to emphasize their message, and this can make all the difference when you’re trying to persuade or inform an audience.
The more confident and clear you seem, the more your listeners will trust and respect you.
Here are nine ways you can use your body language to become a better speaker:
- Stand tall with your shoulders back. A good posture is one of the first things that will set you apart from other speakers. It shows confidence, which makes people listen more attentively—because if someone seems confident about what she is saying, then it must be worth hearing! Practice standing tall with your shoulders back in front of a mirror until it becomes second nature.
- Keep your chin up at a relaxed angle. Avoid looking down while speaking, but also avoid tilting your head back or tucking it into your shoulders—you’ll end up straining your neck muscles over time if you do this! Instead, keep a relaxed angle between the floor and chin so that when people look at you they see a friendly face and not something scary like a looming giant or an angry bulldog (unless those are looks you’re going for).
- Do not cross your arms or legs while speaking. There are only two instances when crossing our arms is acceptable: we cross our arms because we have had enough (i.e., angry people), or we cross them because we want to protect ourselves (i.e., self-conscious people). Both of these emotions should be avoided if possible when giving a presentation! Try placing both hands on either side of the podium instead of crossing them over each other in front; this will help give off an open appearance, making others feel welcome in listening to what you have to say rather than feeling like they’ve been told: “go away.”
So, with this article, I hope that you have learned a few ways to overcome negative body language and replace it with positive, confident body language that will help you conquer your fear of public speaking.
Now it is time to put into practice these tips and become a public speaking expert.
Watch for the next article on ’10 Tips for Overcoming a Fear of Public Speaking.
What is your best tip?