In presentations, the audience perceive more than the words you share with them. They also derive meaning from nonverbal cues. Your mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language can say a lot about you and the topic you’re discussing.
A successful outcome doesn’t just rely on perfecting your slides and talking points. It also rests on how well you can hold yourself in front of a crowd. It doesn’t matter if you’re pitching to a small group or addressing a huge auditorium, improving your nonverbal cues can help in achieving your goals.
Your mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language can say a lot about you and the topic you’re discussing. A successful outcome doesn’t just rely on perfecting your slides and talking points. It also rests on how well you can hold yourself in front of a crowd.
Posture and gestures
The way you stand can have an effect on how the audience perceives you. In our previous discussion on body language, we went into Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose‘. According to the social psychologist, the simple act of standing straight can give you more confidence when facing a crowd. This shows that you’re sure of yourself and the information you’re presenting.
To maintain proper posture, keep your shoulders square and feet planted firmly on the ground. Avoid shifting your weight from one leg to another or swaying side to side. It’s also important that you don’t look too stiff. Aside from confidence, you want to show the audience that you feel comfortable in a position of authority. Walking around your space will allow you to feel more natural and at ease.
Just be sure to keep your movements purposeful and minimal. If you want to walk around the stage, stay in one spot for a few moments. The best way to do this is by following the natural flow of your presentation. Finish discussing one point in a certain part of the stage before moving to another spot.
Make use of strong and defined gestures to add emphasis to the points you’re making. Most presenters like to extend their arms in an open gesture to convey their sincerity. Just keep in mind that these should be well-coordinated with what you’re trying to convey.
Aside from posture and gestures, your face also plays an important role in delivering nonverbal cues. A single word can be defined in various ways, depending on how you look when you say it.
With a smile, the word “go” can be a form of encouragement and support. With a more aggressive expression, it can be a sign of impatience. In presentations, don’t forget that changes like these can alter how the audience perceives what you share.
As a general rule, you should always try to smile throughout your presentation. You want to be able to project a positive and lively atmosphere. A blank face can make you look bored and uninterested, which your audience can easily discern. How will they take interest in your discussion that way? If you want them to connect with your message, your face should always match what you’re trying to say.
Your face will look lifeless if you don’t know what to do with your eyes. As the old saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. Communication is all about making a connection. Keynote speaker, Carol Kinsey Goman expounds on how eye contact is an important factor in achieving that.
Eye contact is easy if you’re addressing a small crowd, but how are you supposed to do it with a large audience? Pick a handful of people that are seated in different parts of the room. Find a few seated on the left, some seated in the middle, and others seated in the right. Look to the group on the left for a few seconds before you move on to the other group.
This will give the impression that you’re paying close attention to everyone in the room. Avoid darting your eyes all over the room. Keep your attention toward one direction at a time.
With all that said, utilizing nonverbal cues to improve your presentation can be a bit of a challenge.
Our bodies will often betray how we feel in certain circumstances. When you’re feeling nervous or anxious, your hands might shake or your voice might falter.
You might tend to slouch or take on a defensive posture like crossing your arms. This is why it’s important to take the time to rehearse how you’ll deliver your presentation.
Make active decisions about your nonverbal cues to avoid confusing your audience. The goal is to deliver a message that is clear and concise. You can’t do that if your nonverbal cues are in conflict with your words.
Goman, Carol-Kinsey. “Fascinating Facts About Eye Contact.” Forbes. August 21, 2014. Accessed January 6, 2015.
“Hand Gestures: What to do with your hands when presenting.” Speak Like a Pro. Accessed January 6, 2015.
“How to Use Body Language Like a Presentation Expert.” SlideGenius PowerPoint Design & Presentation Experts. June 2, 2015. Accessed January 6, 2015.
“Power Your Presentations with These Body Language Tips.” SlideGenius PowerPoint Design & Presentation Experts. July 16, 2014. Accessed January 6, 2015.
“Public Speaking Tips.” Art of Communicating. Accessed January 6, 2015.
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Amy Cuddy. Accessed January 6, 2015.
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