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7 Dos and Don'ts of Body Language to Enhance Public Speaking

7 Dos and Don'ts of Body Language to Enhance Public Speaking

Hanisha Kapoor

Hanisha Kapoor

April 19 2017

Did you know: 60-65 percent of all human communication is nonverbal? Even when a person is standing still, a person’s body is telling a story.


Yes, your body can strongly put across your message than the words. And in some cases, your body language and words just don’t match.


Then what happens?


You contradict yourself, put yourself in a bad light and make it worse for your audience to comprehend you.


Don’t let this happen to you.


Escape from the bad body language habits to enhance your message.


Here we are going to tell you 7 don'ts and 7 dos while you are on the stage delivering a presentation or speech to make sure your body language is as good as your content.


Don’t Ever:


1) Fold hands/arms: It indicates that you are unenthusiastic about the speech or the presentation. You are not open to others and their ideas. Folding arms could imply that you may have gone into your shell and you are uncomfortable in the presence of others.


Folding hands is a big no


2) Look down or off into space: You are on the stage with purpose. You are not there to talk to the ceiling or to the floor. If you look down or off into the space, it shows that you are not interested in the audience, or in the whole idea of being there.


3) Jiggle legs: Reason why people shake their legs is restlessness. Either you are unprepared or you just got bored of the situation. Either ways, you jiggle your legs. Better go prepared and add some humor to your presentation so that you don’t let yourself and your audience get bored.


4) Fidget with objects: Clicking pens, playing with paper clips may show you as impatient, bored, nervous, and restless. Not just this, audience will end up seeing you fidgeting and will not pay attention to what is being said.


Fidgeting with objects


5) Turn your back to the audience: When you do it, you bore them. As a result, you lose them. You portray as if you don’t care about them.


6) Roll eyes: This is a way of telling your audience that you don’t respect them. Or that maybe you are lying. Of course, we are not saying that you are a liar. But you might come across as one if you do so.


Rolling  eyes


7) Hold objects in front of your body: You are separating yourself from others. You immediately create a bridge between you and your audience when you cover your body. Your entire body is visible to the audience when you are standing. They can communicate well with a standing person. In case, you have to sit, make sure you don’t cover your body with unnecessary stuff such as files or books in your hands. Just sit straight and talk.


Always Do:


1) Make eye contact: Always make an eye contact with your audience. Eye contact represents that you are interested in the conversation. It shows that you are speaking information, showing attention and interest. When you look your audience in the eye, they will in turn pay more attention to you and to what you are saying because they will feel engaged and a part of your conversation.


2) Open arms: Keep your arms open. Open arms display that you are confident about your content. You have a confidence in your message. Also, you are open to new ideas. You are not a threat to your audience. You would like to indulge in the conversation with your audience.


Keep arms open


3) Mobility: A little movement is necessary during the presentation. Do not just standstill at one place. Use the stage while speaking to keep the environment active and positive. Walk towards the audience to encourage them to participate in the conversation.


4) Face expressions: Face expressions are an integral part of any speech. Face expressions alone can make your audience understand the meaning of the message. Let your emotions come out while saying each word. It shows that you mean them. Your audience will immediately connect with you.


Face expressions are important


5) Power Posing: Make your speech more effective by adopting power posing. This is not something you have to do whilst the speech is on. Try power posing before the speech for effective results. According to the social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, power posing can make us feel more powerful, strong and secured about ourselves. Simple postures such as “hands on our hips and arms in V” can boost our confidence level.


6) Open palms or be hands on: Talk with the palms open. It is a sign of honesty. Closed palms indicate that you are hiding something and come across as a threat to your audience. Avoid keeping hands in your pockets or by the side. Rather use hands gestures to emphasize your words.


Use hands gestures


7) Smile: There is nothing better than smiling. It shows that a person is credible, confident, and trustworthy. It exudes positivity and charm about the person who is delivering a speech.


Always smile


Adopt these body language tips to enhance your public speaking.


Now you are aware of what you should avoid doing on the stage and what you should always do to make your stage presence a hit.


And always remember to smile.


Good luck.


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8 thoughts on “7 Dos and Don'ts of Body Language to Enhance Public Speaking”
  1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
    Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
    Thanks Hanisha. Some good advice, but what’s the source to back up the claim that >60% of communication’s nonverbal? It sounds like a variation of the Mehrabian Myth. (I also wondered if choosing Trump to show what a smile looks like was ironic! It just doesn’t look heartfelt to me.)

    I do strongly agree about eye contact, open gestures, and not turning your back though.

    It’s certainly a fascinating subject, and you might like the posts I’ve written about body language too – especially the one about managing fear (which has a section about smiling) and the one about “public-speaking baloney” as I call it (or the Mehrabian Myth). Would love to hear your comments on any of those.
    1. Hanisha Kapoor
      Hanisha Kapoor
      Hi Craig, thank you for the comment. Glad you like the post! As we have mentioned in the post that even if a person is standing still, he is communicating something through his body language. A University of Pennsylvania study stated that the majority of communication is transmitted non-verbally- 70% of communication is body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% is your spoken

      About Trump smiling in the picture, we were also tentative in the beginning. Our team had a discussion about it if we should add this particular picture because as you said it does not look convincing enough. But then we decided to leave it on our audience to have their opinions. Thank you for noticing it. Love those body language tips you have shared with us.
      1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
        Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
        Thanks for your reply. Do you have a link for the study? If so, I’d love to read it.

        I must say I’m sceptical about such precise figures, because “communication” is such a broad term, so it’s very hard to be so precise about it.

        Also, please read this section of my “baloney” post, where I briefly describe an experiment that I’m sure would disprove the assertion that “60-65 percent of all human communication is nonverbal”.
        1. Hanisha Kapoor
          Hanisha Kapoor
          Hi Craig, it was quite interesting to read the debate on Mehrabian theory. The points you raised are indeed convincing. During my research, I however came across articles by public speaking experts that shared this statistic based on a finding by researcher Ray Birdwhistell who in his book "Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion Communication" had said that words account for 30-35% of a conversation or interaction while non verbal communication 65-70%.

          I came across this article that cites both Mehrabian theory and Ray's findings- you'll surely find this article interesting.
          1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
            Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
            I did find that NYT article interesting, so thanks for posting. Unfortunately, it perpetuates the Mehrabian Myth by stating that “the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal”. However, it does say “Most researchers now agree that words are used primarily for conveying information, while body language is used for negotiating interpersonal attitudes”.

            The fact remains that if a presenter stood on a stage and used only body language to communicate, with no slides or other visuals, the audience wouldn’t have a clue what the intended message was, and would walk out. Conversely, if a presenter’s flight was delayed and they couldn’t attend, the host could play an audio recording of the rehearsal, and the crowd would get the vast majority of the intended meaning.

            So making broad statements about all communication, yet using percentages, is grossly misleading.
            1. Hanisha Kapoor
              Hanisha Kapoor
              Hi Craig, what you said is obviously true. Words play an important role while communicating. But let's not forget that body language still plays an integral part in our communication. You can understand the other person and connect with them through their body language even if they lack voice and words. Before language was invented body language was the only mode of communication.

              Let's go back to the 19th century, when silent movies were introduced. Actors used to showcase their feelings and emotions via body language. The perfect epitome of this is Charlie Chaplin.

              Secondly, flight instructions where flight attendants through actions explain the safety measures. Even if the audio recording is played, the tone and pitch that stress importance of emergency measures communicates a lot of meaning.

              Thirdly, we live in a world of big data where numbers and percentages are how we understand the importance of one factor over another. So, percentages will be used. We can keep on debating the validity of those percentages- that's the beauty of research but we can't do away with them.

              So one can not deny the fact that body language was and will always be an important part of the communication.
  2. kajal Hedav
    focus on communication and not on performance. It will help you in shifting your focus from the fear of Speaking in Public and free you from all worries.
    1. slideteam
      Well said Kajal !!! Totally agree with you.
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