6 Tips to Use Body Language in Your Presentations

Presenters used to pay a lot more attention to their body language. Then PowerPoint was invented, and many people breathed a sigh of relief. No need to bother about body language any more!

Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether using PowerPoint or not, your body language says more about what you really think about the subject matter than your words do – and has a huge role in taking your audience with you. All presentations are, in effect, multilingual.

It’s quite likely that you’re not even aware of your body language: particularly in a presentation situation, where additional nervousness and stress can make your gestures and stance more defensive and rigid. Have someone video your next presentation, and then take a look. You might be shocked!

But being shocked is good if it helps you to improve.

Let’s look at some of the key pointers. Even if you’re speaking your words quietly, your body language can be shouting at your audience – and the signs it gives are interpreted instinctively.

1. Get the stance right

Particularly if you’re new to the presentation game, you might feel a tendency to stand stiffly in one place, hug your lectern for support, slouch, or sway while you’re standing. It’s also natural to lean back, put your hands in your pockets or on your hips, and look straight ahead while speaking.

Natural they might be  – but all of these are big turn-offs to the audience.

2. Move around while you speak

Be alive and energetic. Don’t sway, don’t slouch, and don’t lean back. If you stand tall and lean forward, you send an unconscious but powerful message to your audience that you’re passionate about your subject, that you’re confident and that you’ve got something to say that’s worth hearing.

3. Hands are a speaker’s best weapon

Hands are a speaker’s best weapon – yes, even more than the voice. If you don’t believe me, take a look at films of great orators. They’re certainly not standing with their hands in their pockets! Their hands are driving the points they’re making, underlining them, illustrating them.

4. Shoulders are important too

When addressing a large gathering, hands can’t always make big enough gestures – but shoulders can. Gesturing from the shoulder and using your whole arms can also help to relieve any tension or nerves.

5. Look at people in turn

The facial expression is vital, of course. Many experts recommend that you should look at different people in turn, engaging each of them with your eyes before pausing slightly and moving on to your next point. (The pauses help give your message importance, and give added drama and impact to what you’re saying.) Make sure you don’t ignore any part of the audience, but engage with as many members of it as possible. This will help make them feel connected with you.

6. Above all, smile!

Even in a serious or weighty presentation, you should be able to smile at the start: another good tension reliever. In many presentations, you’ll be able to smile several times. Look as if you’re having fun, and two things will happen: you’ll start enjoying yourself, and so will your audience.

Use body language for feedback

Last but not least, body language works the other way too. In many presentations, nobody in the audience will speak until you get to the end and ask for questions. But their body language will provide powerful unspoken feedback.

If everyone’s sitting back or slouching, they’re not paying attention. If they’re looking away or have their eyes closed, that’s even worse. If they’re sitting with their arms folded looking directly at you, you might have offended or annoyed them in some way. If they’re leaning forward and maintaining eye contact, you’ve made a hit. All these pointers and many others can help you adjust what you’re saying – and doing – in your presentation.

By David Vickery


Published On: 18th Oct 2010

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  1. the tips was rely great also i would like to add few more:
    1) should give an related day-to-day example and like it with the presentation,
    2) can also use few technique to capture the attentaion of the audiance like posting few questions, by giving a explosive start, can also have some demo make audiance to paticipate in the presentation.
    3)dress code and the physical appearence also helps on getting the attentaion of the observer.

    The presentar should remember few things:

    he should be precise in his presentaion, not too long not too short.

    he should also make clear what his observers want to understand so there should be a proper preperation.

    kousic 18 Oct at 7:38 pm
  2. Great Tips on here. Found it quite revealing and useful.

    bassey edoho 7 Nov at 2:58 pm
  3. very useful information. thank you.
    anyway very difficult to avoid some mannerisms, especially at presentation

    mahil 1 Feb at 2:03 pm