Your actions speak louder than your words.
So how do you improve your body language? Charles Greene gives a few pointers.
When presenting, there are always two distinct channels of conversation going on at the same time. The spoken words are carried on one channel. The other channel conveys your body language. As with stereo, when these two channels work in harmony, they support each other.
However, when your body-language channel is out of tune with your words, they’ll fall flat – no matter how well you speak.
Your body language conveys subtext
Words are important. However, your body language conveys subtext. Subtext connects directly to your credibility as a speaker. It includes your level of interest in the audience, your concern for their needs, and how you feel about yourself.
Imagine an executive who says, “Our company is going to lead the field in our industry,” but stands slouched over and mumbles those words.
Imagine being told, “I truly value you,” by someone who glances past your gaze.
You might doubt the honesty of the statement. You’d sense that something was amiss.
It’s more than just your hands
Most people’s concept of body language is limited to the question of what to do with their hands.
Proper hand gestures are important, but the topic of body language covers much more: it’s everything apart from your words.
Consider all the areas of the body that speak volumes as your deliver your message: voice, eyes, hands, feet, and passion.
• Voice: Speaking in a monotone will destroy your message and lose your audience.
You can literally move an audience and bring them to the edge of their seats by the manner in which you deliver your words. Move your audiences by using vocal variety. Lower your tone to draw them in. Pause and let them wait, just for a moment, for the revelation of a key word or phrase. Tempo and pacing also have roles to play in enlivening your presentations.
Matching the most appropriate vocal technique to particular words and sentences will take time, but the results can be stunning. Think of the power of an old-time radio show.
• Eyes: Except for the manner in which you speak, your eyes have the greatest influence on connecting you with your audience.
Develop the ability to look directly at people – eye to eye. Strive to make a visual connection with individual people in your audience regardless of the size of the room in which you are presenting. Catch someone’s eye and, despite distance, you’ve made a connection. In a small room, look at everyone during your presentation. In a large room, select a few people in different parts of the room and look at them.
• Hands: Some people actually talk with their hands. You should do what feels comfortable for you, but do it knowingly, remembering that motion catches attention.
When you move your hands, move them with intent and purpose.
Keep your hands in sight and use them to gesture appropriately. If you are on stage and some distance from your audience use larger and broader movements.
• Feet: Learn to stand in one spot, but don’t stay frozen there.
Show confidence by staying in place while making a point and then moving to another place and staying there when you make your next point. In your movement be steady, stable, and balanced.
Your presenting area will determine how much movement you use. If you are on a large stage, you might be able to go far to the right or left as well as up or down stage. Remember to stay visible and in the light.
• Passion: This is the invisible body language element that binds all of the visible elements together. Be “on” when you present.
Passion is not the icing on the cake. It is the cake.
Your passion doesn’t have to be revealed à la Tony Robbins style, but there should be some evident spark, some magic, to your physical presence. Passion when presenting is the je ne sais quoi that lifts your step, brightens your smile, and warms your voice.
Audiences love passion.
Passion conveys positive energy. And positive energy wins over most audiences.
Proper use of these elements is essential to presenting well. When not used well, these elements can have negatively devastating effects on your ability to connect with your audience.
Don’t look people in the eye, and they’ll think that you are being evasive. Speak in a monotone, and the audience’s attention level will plummet after ten seconds.
Flail your hands around, and everyone will wonder “What’s wrong with him?” Pace the stage, and you’ll look like a solo table tennis match and exhaust your audience.
Just as there’s a great gulf between knowing a spoken language and speaking that language fluently, there’s a huge difference between knowing the different elements of body language and employing them fluidly to empower your presentation.
All of the elements of body language – voice, eyes, hands, feet, and passion – must be practised until they become a natural flow that works in concert with your spoken words. You must practise to develop them and then to apply them appropriately.
Before you can improve your own body language, you’ve got to know what you actually do when you present.
Video yourself during an actual presentation. It’s the only way to see the reality of your own actions.
You’ll be amazed by what you see yourself doing. Armed with a dose of reality, you can then proceed to make the changes you need to improve.
Develop your natural body language and you’ll gain a presentation without distractions. All of your parts will complement each other.
Your audiences will audibly and emotionally hear your message. You’ll engage them externally and internally. Even if your words fail, your audience will still feel the “heart” of your message.
Charles Greene III, Presentation Magician (CharlesGreene.com)