Bodies are wonderful things, we all have one, we all navigate our way through life in one and we all use one when we speak in public. Yes, we do! Fear of incorrect Body Language, or not knowing that there is such a thing, can pose a real problem when it comes to public speaking.
Here at Speechstorming we’ve given countless workshops on Body language and here’s a little of what we’ve learnt!
Here’s a text version of the infographic:
What percentage is non-verbal?
Seventy to ninety percent, depending on your expert of choice, of your communication when you speak in public is non-verbal. That’s a staggering statistic, no matter what way you look at it, and means that all the hours, days and weeks that you put into your words, slides and speech are but a small percentage of the overall impact you will have as a speaker. You can see that this is an area worth focusing on!
Don’t be an ostrich!
Pretending that this is not true is to bury your head in the sand and drastically decrease your chances of being an effective speaker. When you say one thing but your non-verbal communication transmits another our audience faces a choice; to believe your words or your body language. As a speaker that is a dangerous choice to give them.
Don’t jump in at the deep end!
Expecting that when the time comes to speak your body will automatically know what to do is like a non-swimmer jumping into deep water and expecting their body will instantly know how to swim. Your non-verbal communication can betray your nervousness, your lack of preparation, your ill-ease in front of the audience. All of which will distract from your speech!
Keep the brakes on!
Exhilarating as it may sound to drive a powerful sports car at maximum speed with the brakes removed sooner, or even sooner, you’re going to run into serious trouble. Not being aware of your body language, and by this we particularly mean your individual tics, means that your non-verbal communication is out of control and on a collision course with your audience’s expectations.
Are you in control?
Control, control, more control with some extra control for good measure. Your non-verbal communication should clearly indicate to your audience that you are in control; of yourself, your slides, your content, your speech, your speaking space and especially in control (and aware) of the impression you’re giving to the audience.
Is your nose itchy?
How many times have you seen speakers put their hands in their pockets, cross their feet, scratch their nose, play with their hair, endlessly push up their glasses or suddenly discovering they have a face that they simply must touch as often as possible during their speech. Chances are that if you remember that about them you don’t remember what they spoke about!
Harmony is important!
Statistically speaking, as we have seen, you will communicate more with your body language then with your words. That’s only a problem if the two don’t match. If you can have your body language in harmony with your words, then it’s supporting your speech not distracting from it and that means that you have……………
To make your body language essentially disappear! This doesn’t mean becoming a member of the Magic Circle, it means that the more controlled, elegant and polished your body language becomes the more it disappears for the audience and your words, the speech itself, takes centre stage.
Are you trying to distract me?
Opening your arms widely for no apparent reason, gesticulating like you were helping guide a plane to land, speeding round the stage like Roadrunner or choosing one spot to remain immovable in, rocking back and forth on your feet like you were threatening to break into a song and dance routine at any second, playing with the pen in your hand like you were a majorette. All the above have one word in common; DISTRACTING. Don’t do them!
Where is the audience?
Remember at all times that your audience is in front of you and your slides are behind you. That bears repeating; your audience is in front of you and your slides are behind you. Turning round to engross yourself in the wonder of your slides means you’ve given your back to the audience. Big mistake!
Where are you facing?
Mindful of the fact that your back is currently to the audience several things are now happening. Firstly, you can’t see them which means anything could be happening (conversations, mobile phones being used, complete lack of interest in your speech, riots) and you won’t know. Secondly if you take your face away from them you’re directly giving them permission to stop listening to you. Thirdly only your power point gets the value of your hard work and preparation.
Always get feedback!
Investing your time and energy in receiving useful, supportive, honest and constructive feedback on your body language is vital. Practice as often as possible with friends and colleagues you trust and ask them to specifically focus part of their feedback on your body language. Most of us are deeply unaware, or in complete denial, about our non-verbal tics. This, as you can imagine, makes them impossible to rectify.
Record yourself at every stage!
Nowadays it’s becoming easier and easier to record yourself when you practice your speech. This is a very valuable exercise as in our Speechstorming workshops we have explained to people where they were going wrong with their body language but it was only after they saw the recordings that they truly believed us. Record yourself and evaluate your body language.
Elegance is key!
Grasping the fundamentals of good body language- controlled, elegant, non-distracting- is a basic task for anyone wishing to speak in public. That could mean presenting in front of a small group or an enormous political rally. The theory is the same; the more your body language forms part of the background the more your speech comes to the fore.
Body language can be analysed, practised, improved and used in your favour. For more on the subject of body language and the world of public speaking check out our course on public speaking
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