Body language is sometimes the ‘forgotten skill’ in communication. We’ve all heard the saying that ‘actions speak louder than words’ and the saying is true. If you want to influence your listeners and get your message across, body language it vital. As I often tell my clients, the most important visual aid is not PowerPoint– it is YOU!
Humans are visual, so be sure to make effective body language a key element in all your communication.
Here are 6 essential tips to help:
1. Take up space. When you speak in public, there’s a certain amount of space that is yours to claim, (ie, the “speaker space”) — use it! Too often I see people, especially when one is nervous, not moving which makes for a boring presentation. Engage your listeners by using the space which is rightfully yours when speaking. Personally, I like to walk around the room, especially when giving a formal presentation or facilitating a workshop. Bottom line: Don’t stand still and use the space you have. It demonstrates confidence and keeps the listeners engaged.
2. Eye contact. As simple as it seems, eye contact is a secret weapon. That’s right, one of the most powerful means of communicating confidence is with good eye contact. Have you have been in a meeting, or watched a presentation and the speaker didn’t make eye contact with you? How did that make you feel? Disconnected, left out, or not engaged I imagine. Whether it’s communicating one-to-one, in a meeting, or a presentation – be sure to give eye contact. Speaking to a large audience? Be sure to scan the room and make eye contact with each section. You want to be sure find the right balance too. Looking someone in the eye for too long can be uncomfortable, and too short is not engaging and instead can come across as inauthentic or demonstrate a lack of confidence. Like many things in life, it’s all about finding a balance.
3. Facial expressions. Use your facial expressions to enhance your message, and to connect and inspire your audience. One of the most important facial expressions is smiling. If you’re giving a speech or presentation — start with a smile. This helps you connect with your listeners and can also help you relax. Smiling is very effective for many types of communication, not just public speaking. Whether you’re interviewing, communicating with a college, or speaking at meeting – don’t forget to smile! Not only will it help in your delivery, but will help you engage the listener and help built trust.
4.Gestures. Have you ever seen someone use their hands too much, or even the opposite, not use them at all? Gesturing too much can be distracting, while little or no gesturing is just plain boring (and ineffective). How to find the balance? Make sure your gestures have a purpose. For example, if you are going to “talk about the 3 main reasons sales fell last month” then use your fingers to indicate the number three. Simple? Yes. Effective. Yes! Your gestures enhance your message, making it (and you) more memorable, clear, and effective.
5. Voice. Often we forget our voice is our most important tool. When you speak, your voice is not only the medium of your message, but a very effective way to persuade, influence and engage others. Good speakers vary their speech to express emotion, conviction, and for emphasis. You want to pay attention to things like your tone, volume, rhythm, and pace.
6. Posture. Your mom was right when she told you to stand up straight! Stand up all, shoulders up and square, feet firmly on the ground. The not only demonstrates confidence, but makes you feel confident. Speaking at a meeting, but you’re seated in a chair? Same rules apply. Sit up tall, shoulders back, and feet firmly on the ground.
Remember, It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Be sure to focus on your body language as much as (if not even more so) the words you use.