When you speak in public, you speak with more than your mouth. Effective public speaking isn’t only about what you’re saying, but how you say it. Public speaking anxiety can leave you looking nervous, afraid, and unprepared. Strong, conﬁdent body language is essential for a successful presentation. In the same way that users of American Sign Language portray complex thoughts and ideas with their bodies, your body language is telling your audience a story.
Here’s the parts of your body to keep in mind while speaking in public:
5. Back, Shoulders, and Neck
Do you remember your parents or teachers always telling you to sit up straight? Maybe they told you to stop slouching or told you to stop staring at your feet.
So take their advice. Take command of the room and your audience will pay attention. Neck, shoulders, and back all play a role in making sure you maintain an assertive stance for your viewers.
How you use your hands will vary with the type of speech. Nervous ﬁdgeting is a no-no. If you’re giving a more stern, professional presentation, a conﬁdent grasp on the lectern will do. For more high energy presentations, use your hands to convey ideas. If you’re discussing raising sales, a short gesture upwards will do. Hands can also identify board points or audience members with questions.
But don’t overdo it! High energy is great, but crazy, frantic, or too fast and you may lose your audience.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Do you want people to see someone scared and anxious, or do you want them to see a persuasive, inspiring leader?
Nervous blinking, frantic gazing, and wide-eyed fear are common symptoms of public speaking anxiety.
Use your eyes to convey tone and emotion. A raised eyebrow or a cleverly-timed wink can amplify a point.
Also use your eyes to identify with the audience. Great speakers can make eye contact with every viewer in the room. If the audience feels acknowledged, they’ll be more open to your words and ideas.
Be aware of and control any nervous foot-tapping that may be disruptive during your speech.
If you’re commanding a stage or a room, be sure to use those feet to move! You want to interact with your entire audience, not just those front and center.
It’s more than just where your words come from. Don’t let your fear of public speaking lead to lip-biting, lip-licking, teeth-grinding, tongue-clicking, and other mouth- related speaking ﬂaws.
If you’re presenting in a smaller venue, such as a small meeting, make sure you aren’t giving colleagues more than your words. Keep your spit to yourself. They came to hear you speak, not for the ﬁrst row experience at SeaWorld.
If you’re keeping track of what your body is doing, you’ll be sure to keep the attention of your audience and make an inspiring impact.
Guest Post by Mike Jousan
Mike Jousan is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant. Since 1988 he has been leading Clear Communication Company, a consulting firm specializing in all forms of person-to-person communication. He is also the author of three books on public speaking and communication.
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