A body language checklist for public speakers

Make a great first impression by minding your posture, nodding affirmatively and not swallowing your voice.

In this era of smartphones, social media and intense scrutiny, we must be keenly aware of our body language.

We must be conscious of what we’re projecting and what other people are receiving. To our benefit or detriment, body language conveys our intentions and communicates a message. What is your body language communicating to the audience?

Before taking the podium or stepping on stage, review this checklist:


  • Put down the mobile phone and stand up straight.
  • Pull your shoulders back; tuck your stomach and pelvis in.
  • Lift your head, keeping your chin level.
  • ·Lead with your heart.

The face

  • Don’t forget to smile.
  • Open your eyes; don’t narrow them.
  • Raise your eyebrows.
  • Nod affirmatively.

The hands

  • Keep your hands open, not closed in front of your stomach.
  • Give a firm—but not crushing—handshake.
  • Don’t fiddle with your face or hair.

The voice

  • Take a deep, abdominal breath before you speak.
  • Speak with authority and confidence.
  • Be careful with vocal uptick.
  • Don’t swallow your voice.
  • Don’t speak from the back of your throat or from your nose.


  • Move toward people, but don’t get too close. A rule of thumb: Leave 18 inches of personal space in the West, and give people at least eight inches in the East.
  • Keep your torso still, but relaxed.
  • Focus on your solar plexus.

Here’s to a year of mindful, clear communication—with body and voice aligned.

A version of this post first appeared on Public Words.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.