7 ways to make your body language win over audiences

Are you—or is your leader—losing audiences, no matter how great the text of the speech is? Gestures count. Try these techniques.

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You’ve written a brilliant presentation, but when you deliver it, you can tell from your audience’s bored stares that it’s falling flat.

Or you cringe in the back of the auditorium as your chief executive stammers or chops the air with gestures that bear no relation to the rhythm of the speech you wrote.

Professional speechwriters—and communicators who must address crowds—tend to sweat the words and the PowerPoint slides as they prepare. But poor presentation kills a speech just as surely as a bad text can, says Tom Mucciolo, president of MediaNet.

Some 93 percent of what you communicate to an audience is nonverbal, he says, while your content amounts to only 7 percent.

Whether you’re coaching an executive or preparing your own address, here are some techniques to bear in mind. Get more presentation tips from Mucciolo in this Ragan Training video.

1. Stand on the ‘reading anchor’ side.

You’ve got captions to read on all those PowerPoint pie charts or images of your employees shouting “Yay!” in front of the home office. When you have to read something the audience sees, make sure you stand to the right of your screen (or, from the audience’s perspective, the left).

“We read the text left to right, and then we come back and look at the speaker,” Mucciolo says.

2. Use your shoulders to convey power.

Angle your shoulders at 45-degrees to the back wall of the stage while facing your audience. If one or two chairs are cut off from your line of vision, remove them before the presentation. This nonthreatening position makes it easier for the audience to absorb your words, and it allows you to refer to your screen, Mucciolo says.

Then, when you need to make a point, turn to face the audience full-on.

“Some people say how do I get power or impact?” Mucciolo says. “Well, all the power or impact of your body: shoulders.”

Watch TV news programs, and you’ll see what he means. The two anchors are angled toward each other, and then they turn straight toward the camera to deliver the big story.

3. Tilt your head, or drop your chin.

Tilting one’s head back implies that you’re discussing the big picture (think of President Obama). Dropping the chin supports content or details. President Ronald Reagan knew the power of the head tilt, Mucciolo says.

When he wanted to signal that the camera should pull in for a close-up, Reagan would use a particular word. “Whenever he said the word ‘well’ it meant a close-up, and his head was always tilted,” Mucciolo says.

Tell your exec or politician to get rid of the stiff pose and use this simple movement.

4. Anchor yourself with friendly faces.

You should select five friendly faces as focal points: two on the left of your audience, two on the right, and one in the center. That way, if you look up at the screen, you can turn and orient yourself without losing your place.

“You’ll never lose your train of thought,” Mucciolo says.

5. Don’t upstage yourself.

Upstaging oneself, Mucciolo says, means allowing part of the body to pass between the speaker’s face and the audience. This happens when you angle your body away from the audience or reach across your face to point at the screen.

“Now you’re listening to my elbow,” he says. You muffle your words, block your expressions, and make your audience uncomfortable.

6. Don’t pace pointlessly.

Understand your space by using it in a limited way. Make your movements count.

“You’re not going to move around a lot,” Mucciolo says. “You’re mostly in the same spot. But when the body travels somewhere, it travels fully for a reason. It stays there for a while.”

7. Convey truth and sincerity with upturned palms.

Look at the statues and paintings over the ages: Sculptors often depicted the palms-up gesture. When speakers do this, it suggests warmth and draws in the audience.

“The revelation of the palms is a political gesture,” Mucciolo says. “It’s a religious gesture. It’s a friendly gesture. How would you get a young child to run into your arms? You gesture.”


Topics: PR


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