What's the story about body language? Nonverbal expressions of the human body are silent signals that say a lot.
The important thing to know about body language is this:
It is louder than you think!
Presentation skills training would not be complete without addressing effective body language. According to presentation experts, more than half of our everyday messages are communicated by body language. Many experts urge presenters to be aware of conflicting body language-when the words are in contradiction with silent messages.
How are these silent messages conveyed? Through posture, position, movement, gestures and facial expressions.
When presenting to audiences, verbal and nonverbal expression should work together. If they do not, the message is confusing. People may not know whether to listen to what you are saying...or listen to what you are communicating non verbally.
There are four facts of life that you must know about non-verbal impact in presenting. Memorize these and you will be in a much stronger position to align your body language with the words you speak.
Use your facial expressions, posture and gestures to complement your delivery. Speaking with emotion, it is natural to smile, make eye contact and use animated hand movements. This is not something that you need to struggle with to remember.
Complementing your presentation with natural passion is an easy way to strengthen your impact.
Think of your body language as a way to repeat or reinforce your message. For instance, when describing three points, hold up your fingers to reinforce point 1, point 2 and point 3.
This may seem foolish or unnecessary for you. But it is a powerful way to describe your message and reinforce your key points. Remember, your audience has not heard your presentation before. By using body language to reinforce your points, your audience is more likely to understand your story.
Imagine underlining a word. Picture highlighting a phrase that has particular meaning for you. This is exactly what you are doing when you accentuate a point while speaking.
For example, nodding your head while agreeing. Or shaking your head ‘no' if you disagree with an idea. These physical movements add emphasis that everyone in your audience will recognize.
Body language can be used effectively to send signals. We show surprise by raising our eyebrows. We show amusement by smiling. We show understanding by nodding.
Each of these expressions and gestures is a way to signal understanding to your audience.
While many presentation skills experts urge professionals to use effective body language, there is a hidden problem. We may be skilled at controlling our words...but less able to control nonverbal responses.
This is important to recognize and embrace. For instance, we may lose our voice when we stand up to present. We may blush when we feel embarrassed. We may sweat when we are in the spotlight.
These involuntary signals are valuable. They help us stay authentic and real. Instead of attempting to increase control, perhaps these less controllable responses are important reminders. They remind us of our true feelings. They require us to stay real.
Take a moment to consider the last few presentations you've given. Did you feel your body language was powerful? If so, what did you do? How can you use these insights to be highly effective in your next presentation?
Like so many parts of presenting, working on body language is a process. Consider working with an expert presentation coach to get objective feedback. This is one of the best ways to quickly improve your skills, and strengthen your ability to send the right message.