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Body Language: Signify Intent with Movement

October 21, 2014 / Blog, Lessons, Presentation Science, Rick Enrico Blog body language, presentation delivery, presentation tips, Presentations

Nonverbal cues are just as important as the slides you’re presenting. The way you stand and move across the stage can have significant impact on the message you’re delivering. Improve your presentations and increase your influence by learning more about the art of body language.

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Body language is a powerful weapon

In a previous blog post, we discussed how body language plays an important role in forming positive impressions. Your first few seconds on stage is particularly crucial. In that short span of time, the audience can gather enough information to form their own opinions about you. As Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, points out,

“In the first few seconds of meeting someone, they will determine whether you are friend or predator, and the rest of the time their brains will be gathering information to support that.”

A recent study conducted by Dr. Alex Pentland takes this one step further. As quoted by Susanne Garguilo of CNN, research concludes that “body language can predict the outcome of interactions such as job interviews, dating, negotiations, etc., with an average accuracy of 80%.”

As such, we can’t possibly ignore the power body language has to significantly improve presentation delivery. If you want to connect with the audience, you need to show them that you’re trustworthy and reliable. You need to form a presence that commands their attention.

How body language adds to your presentation

Contrary to popular belief, body language isn’t similar to the way we express ourselves through speech. A certain movement doesn’t necessarily correspond to a specific word or feeling. There’s no such thing as a body language handbook or dictionary that will help you crack the hidden meaning behind particular gestures. As Forbes contributor Nick Morgan writes,

Gestures are ambiguous. They can mean many things. If I cross my arms, I may be signaling my defensiveness, but I may also be cold, or simply tired and propping myself up with my arms – or just getting comfortable. And I could be signaling all those things at once. It’s possible to be simultaneously cold, tired, defensive, and desirous of comfort.”

When we’re unconscious of our movements, body language is pretty good at signifying our emotional intent.

“…research shows that whatever we’re feeling first shows up in our body, and only later (nanoseconds later) in our conscious minds. So, if we’re hungry, or impatient, or angry, or happy, our bodies know first, and they will pretty reliably signal those feelings. Learning to read body language, then, is a matter of learning to understand other people’s intents, not their specific conscious thoughts.”

If this is the case, how does body language add to presentation delivery? It works by highlighting the points and arguments you’re making. In other words, conscious adjustment of your posture, gestures, and expression will emphasize and underscore whatever your saying.

In this way, body language allows you to add an emotional dimension to your presentations. Even if your good posture doesn’t necessarily correspond to a specific meaning, it nonetheless shows the audience something positive and welcoming.

Allow body language to add intent and dimension to your presentation by reading more tips:

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Featured Image: -5m via Flickr