10 Body Language Tips for Presentations

Body Language Tips for Presentations

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.

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.

So look on body language as a positive, powerful tool to help you in your mission.

Tips for presentation success

  1. 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. 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 analysing you. So stand erect and remain calm.
  3. Do not lean on the podium or table. Leaning on a support suggests to your audience that you are weak or nervous.
  4. Continue to smile slightly at the beginning of your presentation. Then become gradually a little more serious as you tell your audience what you are going to talk about.
  5. 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.
  6. Use occasional arm movements to underline important points. If you wave your arms around all the time, you will simply distract your audience. You will not communicate your real message. But the occasional arm movement can be useful in stressing something important.
  7. Look at your audience. 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. Use your head! Movements of your head and expressions of your face can add weight to what your words are saying. When making a negative point, you can shake your head from side to side. When making a positive point, you can nod your head up and down. You can raise your eyebrows, for example, or remove your glasses for special effect or to underline a point.
  10. 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.

Contributor: Josef Essberger