I want to give you an advanced tip. Although anyone could do it, most people don’t. These are specific to the body language that we are talking about here. I know that some of you do not want to do the exercises that I tell you to do but I will be asking you again and again to practice on video, and share what you experience or what you like and do not like.
Now let’s move on to the advanced tip that will solve a lot of your body language problems as well as many other speaking problems. It is: what are you looking at? If you are a little scared or nervous, you tend to look down so that no one can look at you. The problem is that now you look scared, nervous, and unprofessional and everyone starts to feel sorry for you. You do not want sympathy from your audience; you want them to be focused on the ideas you are giving them because they are interesting and helpful.
The bottom 1% of speakers are typically staring at notes or reading the bullet points off of a PowerPoint slide or they will be looking straight out at the mirror or a clock on the opposite wall. Or maybe they are just looking at one friendly face in the front row. The problem is that everyone else then feels ignored. You have a relationship with your audience- it can be like going on a date. If you go on a date and the person is busy with their cellphone all the time, how would you feel? Would you like that person? You have to give some eye contact and attention to your audience.
You do not want to be in the bottom 1% of all speakers. The next 98.9 percent of people who speak do some version of the windshield wiper. They are looking at the audience the whole time but they are never focused on anyone. When you are in the audience and you see a person on the stage but they are addressing the room as a whole, you tend to feel anonymous. That is not what the top speakers do.
The best speakers pick one person in the audience and they will look at that person and talk for just a couple of sentences or one full thought. Then, they will go to another person in the audience, look at them for a full thought, even if it’s only a few seconds.
Here is the difference: when you are really looking at someone, they feel you looking at them and giving them attention and it makes them pay more attention. It makes them really listen to you and concentrate on what you are saying.
Here is the key: you are not staring at the person for the entire time, you are only looking at them for a single thought. If you are giving a presentation to a workgroup in your office or a group of clients and you are talking for 15 minutes and there are 30 people in the room, it means that you can give every single person individualized eye contact many times. It makes you appear supremely confident.
If I am looking at a single person, I will look composed and confident to the other people in the room because I am not continually shifting my gaze. Here is a tip that you may not need to use anytime soon but will always be there in your mind: if you are speaking on stage to a large group such as in a convention, you may have bright lights in your face and the audience could be dark which is why you cannot see a single face. Simply pick a spot in the dark and look at that area while you speak. 20 people sitting in that area will feel as if you adjust addressed them. You then keep shifting your point throughout the room and hold your gaze for a thought. It doesn’t matter that you cannot see the faces; what matters is that the audience members feel like they are being talked to. It means you are less likely to do all sorts of other things like staring or looking down or freezing up because you are looking at them.
When you are looking at one person, it actually calms you down as well. You feel more relaxed and comfortable because you feel as if you are talking to just one person which is something all of us have done uncountable times in our lives.
Another tip for you: when you are starting a presentation, with the first word you speak, move your hands just to prime it up and set the tone. When you are nervous, you can tense up, so make that extra effort of intentionally gesturing in the beginning few minutes of your speech, the rest will come to you naturally. Also be sure that you keep your hands as free as possible when you are speaking and that you are not holding any pens or remote controls.
One Last Chance for a Body Language Personal Critique
I have been rather light on homeworks and assignments because when it comes to body language, I do not find that really helps people all that much. What does help the most is recording yourself on video. So I want to give you one last opportunity. You can come back to my courses two years later and I will still honour it.
Here is your opportunity to practice some kind of talk, speech, job interview, or anything where you are speaking in a workplace environment or any other professional environment. Record it and redo it until you can say that it is the best that you can do. Then post the URL from YouTube, Facebook, or any place else right here in the discussion section. I will watch it and I will give you my honest opinion on what you are doing well but also if there are things that you need to improve. That is my promise to you.
Most of you are not going to take me up on it. That’s okay, but those of you who really want to take it to another level, then take me up on this offer and get recording.