Great Body Language for Your Presentations
How do you get a better control over your body language when you are giving a speech or a presentation to what I assume will be more than a couple of people in a pre decided setting rather than a spontaneous conversation?
The biggest body language tip you need to follow which I have also talked about previously is that you are not ready to give a presentation to anyone in the workplace unless you have actually practiced it on video, looked at it, and gotten to the point where you like how you are coming across. If you do that, it solves virtually all of your problems. However, let me give you even more specifics.
The biggest problem for so many people in the workplace, especially if they are not really seasoned or experienced presenters, is that they think of a presentation or speech as an opportunity to dump a tremendous amount of data onto the listeners. So what ultimately happens is that they are reading from a bunch of papers with their head down as their monotone voice continues to blabber on. It creates a negative chain reaction where every element which is a part of your body language simply shuts down because you and not looking at people, you are not pausing, you are not gesturing, you are not moving your hands, and your speech pattern which is way too fast and monotonous. It just puts people to sleep or forces them to pick up the phone and check their email.
Do not give people an opportunity to do that. If you are ignoring them, they are going to ignore you. It’s similar to if you were out on a date: you do not ignore your date and start playing with your cell phone when you’re out on a dinner with them especially if they think very highly of you or respect you. If you are not giving them any attention then you cannot expect them to give you any attention either. The same applies to a public speaking situation. So you need to be looking at your audience most of the time.
If you are having trouble remembering what to say, my advice is to not stay up late trying to memorize what you need to say as that is extremely difficult. It is also not practical to bring a teleprompter everywhere with you and reading bullet points off of a PowerPoint slide is the kiss of death. The easiest way to become comfortable while you are presenting is to condense everything to a single sheet of paper which you can call a cheat sheet, having your main points in large font so that you can look at it easily without squinting or having to bring the paper closer to your face. You simply need to have two or three words for each line so you do not get confused trying to find where you need to start or stop. It is basically an outline for your entire presentation. And since it’s a single sheet of paper, you will not have to shift it around or turn it over either- everything is right in front of you.
As such, I will know what is coming next and I can walk around the room comfortably. It will make you seem much more comfortable and confident. Nervous speakers do not walk around the room or on stage because they are scared. You don’t have to be running all around the room and be putting on a big show, but even just walking a couple of feet to your left and right will make you look so much more relaxed, comfortable, and confident. What I do is that I print out three or four versions of my outline and I scatter them around the room so that I can walk around to any part of the room and not feel the need to be frozen in one place with my outline. It takes all the pressure off from my memory and allows me to look at my audience when I am speaking to them.
Eye contact is a very important tool for any speaker. There are three different types of eye contact when you are giving a speech or presentation. The bottom 1% of speakers stare at the floor or they are reading their bullet points off of the computer screen with their eyes fixed to the script. An audience member could stand up on the table and light their hair on fire but the speaker would never notice because they are staring at the screen. Then there are the next 98% of all speakers who are doing some version of the windshield wiper, especially if they are talking to more than 10 people. They are trying to look at the whole crowd the whole time. So if you are sitting in the audience you never feel like that speaker is really talking to you or trying to form a connection with you and because of that you feel anonymous and unimportant. The secret behind eye contact when it comes to effective communication is locking your eyes with one person for a complete thought and then moving on to another person for your next thought and so forth. You also have to make sure that your selection of people to make eye contact with is random and not robotic. Such eye contact makes it seem as if you care about the audience members and so they will also be interested in and care about you as well.
The beauty of this method is that if you are asked to give a 10 minute speech to 10 or 20 people, you can give every single one of them individualized eye contact because it only takes 5 to 10 seconds per person to make a connection. This also works even if you’re talking to a huge room full of hundreds of people and even when your audience is engulfed in darkness. You simply need to hold your eyes at one spot in the room and then shift your gaze to another spot after 10 or 20 seconds. This will prevent you from looking lost in front of a sea of people and also help to inhibit your nervousness.