Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Body Language Tips of Speaking Pros

I know that having to get up and deliver a speech can be a daunting and intimidating task for many. What
content can you offer that will resonate with your audience, what stories should you share, what analogies could you offer to make your facts more memorable... it seems never-ending.   Despite all of the time we may put into the development and rehearsal of our content though it is not unusual for our speech/presentation to be a little lack-lustre or even... to fall flat!  Before you take out your pen to re-write your speech or decide to just completely write-off your ability TO speak, take a look at the suggestions below.  All too often the element missing from your speech, the piece that will take it from good to great, is not a lack of verbal content, but of non-verbal.

As much as it is important to deliver the right verbal message, it is just as important that your non-verbal cues work to support those same messages – if you are to be believed.  This is critical, because building your credibility from the stage is an important component of the Leadership Equation. If the audience doesn’t feel that they know, like and trust you… you’re done.  We know from research that 50-93% of the message your audience receives is delivered through your Body Language, which is far too big a component of your message to overlook.  Although I can’t review your personal body language in this article, the following are 5 key tips for you to use as guidelines when practicing and perfecting the delivery of your next speech.

1.  Posture.  I feel like your mother here, admonishing you not to slouch but… Don’t Slouch!  Strong positive posture conveys energy, which is important if you want people to feel that you can make things happen for them.  Additionally, you need that upward extension through the spine to open up your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe more fully.  Better breathing means more oxygen, which helps prevent you from feeling stressed out, and any negative ‘leakage’ that feeling stressed might lead to.  Research also tells us that not only does a positive posture look more attractive to others but it immediately changes our internal physiology, making us feel more confident and powerful.  Think how much better anything you share from the stage sounds if you are coming from a position of confidence and power.

2.  Stance.  In addition to standing fully upright, you need to stand firm.  No rocking or shifting of the feet.  Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet, with your weight a little more forward (toward the ball) than back on the heels.  Movement comes from the balls of the feet, therefore poising there will help you appear more energized, while standing back on your heels makes you appear less inclined to take action.  You are looking for your audience to take action, in which case begin by subtly modeling the ‘active’ state for them.  When standing still you want your feet to be slightly open, almost shoulder width.  This open stance helps to convey power and confidence.  Feet too close together will make you appear more timid and hesitant, which will definitely impact the response of your audience!

3.  Eye Contact.  Your audience will be far more likely to pay attention to you if they feel connected to you.  Making eye contact with them, while you are speaking, can make them feel as though the two of you are having a conversation, that you are speaking directly to and with them.  Creating this personal connection is a very powerful motivator to creating more customers.  However, it means that you actually need to look them in the eye, not the forehead, or between the eyes.  People know the difference and the difference is enough to either make them want to work with you or not.  Honesty and dishonesty for many begins and ends with your ability to look them in the eye.  Look to connect with someone by looking at them for at least 2-3 seconds before moving on with your gaze.  That extra beat or two is what it takes to let them know you truly saw ‘them’, making them feel noticed, and special.  Create this bond and you, and your message, become more memorable. 

4.  Gestures.  The size of your gestures will be related to how close you are to your audience.  The further away you are, the bigger they must be to be seen.  However, here I simply want to share with you a quick but essential rule concerning the direction of your gestures.  Think of the body being divided into two pieces by the belly button plane.  Consider the belly button area as your ‘Neutral’ zone.  When not gesturing your hands come back to rest here.  When stating facts and basic background information your gestures should take place outward along this horizontal plane.  Any gestures that take place below this plane are negative, while any above it are positive.  Therefore, if you are talking about some of the issues they may be experiencing, or problems your past clients/customers have had, you will subtly gesture downward, which emphasizes that it was a negative experience.  When speaking about the benefits of working with you, talking about how you turned a situation around for a client, your hands should be up above the waist.  This is important.  If you get this wrong and gesture downward when you talk about benefits… you are done!  The incongruities in your message will lead others to instantly distrust what you are saying which definitely impacts their desire to work with you - in any capacity.

5.  Smile.  This seems like such a small point to make but it is an important one.  When people get nervous or uncomfortable (like we may feel when getting up on the stage to talk!) they tend to stop smiling.  It’s one of the first gestural cues to go when we become nervous (and therefore one of the first signals I look for to determine the relative confidence of someone in a situation!).  Your audience responds to the cues and signals that you deliver though.  If you want them to connect with you then you need to lead the way by giving them something to connect to.  Smiling at the audience shows them your interest and your comfort.  It helps you be seen as the expert you are.  It is warm, welcoming and engaging, serving to help draw the audience into the content of your message.  It is one of the few universal gestures that there are, making it far more powerful than we realize.  Like a yawn, it is hard for others to not smile in return.  Research shows that when we smile endorphins are released into the body that make us ‘feel’ more positive.  Smiling at your audience periodically can get them smiling, releasing endorphins that put them into a positive state which, in turn, makes them more positively disposed toward  you and your message. 

These are 5 seemingly quick tips that will prove critical to your success in driving your message, and business, forward.  Focus first on the content of your speech but don’t overlook including your body language when working on practicing the delivery of your message.  Videotaping is an invaluable tool to use, helping you to ‘see’ you as your audience will.  As painful as video can feel at times, it is a great medium to help you become better at aligning your visual and verbal messages which, in turn, helps you get ready to create that YouTube channel!

(if you happen to read this on March 3rd, 2014 and would like even more information about Body Language, sign up for my Success Webinar - The Body Language of Success this evening (8pm EST) by registering here:   and for those that are really committed to taking their communication and success to the next level sign up for our next public training event of Beyond Words: Your Body Language at Work by registering on our website for the program:      Okay... done with the commercials now!) 

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