5 Tips for Good Body Language

You walk on stage.

You begin your presentation.

It’s going great.  You’re hitting every point clearly and concisely, just the way you planned.

But something isn’t right.

Your audience isn’t responding well.

Your slides are eloquent, your message is interesting, but there’s something missing.

What is it?

Ever think it might be your body language?

Albert H Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, is best known for his expertise on human communication, specifically the 7%-38%-55% rule, which says:
Words account for only 7%

Tone of voice accounts for 38%

Body language accounts for 55%

As the figures above indicate, the subtle art of body language is absolutely crucial in the field of communication, but especially in presentations.

Here are 5 tips we share with our clients when delivering a presentation:

1. Remember to Smile

Your face is the first and most important attribute in making a good first impression.  When you begin a presentation with a smile, your audience will receive your message more willingly.  Keep smiling throughout your presentation, especially when you want to make people laugh.  People respond to a smile by smiling back.  Interaction is key.

2. Maintain Eye contact

A strong visual connection with your audience is crucial when you are illustrating a point in your presentation.  This gives the whole presentation a more personal feel.  Your audience will focus more on your message if they feel that you are speaking directly to them.

3. Use Hand gestures

Moving your hands throughout the course of your presentation packs every word with more meaning.  As you strive to make a particular point, emphasize your words with hand gestures.  A person remembers a fact or a concept better when they can attach it to a movement or specific action.

4. Keep an Open Posture

This is a subtle one.  An audience is more receptive to an open posture than a closed one.  Being open in the way you present your body opens a person’s mind to accepting your message clearly.  A closed, uninviting posture subconsciously blocks your audience’s receptiveness and can deter them from engaging in your presentation.  Don’t guard your heart.

5. Move Naturally

If you walk around stage as stiff as a plank, you are losing points with your audience.  Fluid, confident movement creates cohesiveness between the logic and the tone of your message.  An audience that feels that you are comfortable will be comfortable in turn.  It’s all about getting your audience on your level and keeping them there.

These tips will drastically improve your audience’s retentions, responses and perceptions.  It’s not about trickery or a quick fix to gain favor with your audience. It takes practice (Steve Jobs practiced for hours on end before every keynote) and patience to use body language effectively.

As the saying goes: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Additional tip:

  • Try videoing yourself and playing it back, whether by your lonesome or with a small group.  Get feedback and practice beforehand to learn your strengths and weaknesses as a presenter.  Watching a video of your body language is a humbling, educational experience.  You’ll be surprised (and maybe a little embarrassed at first) at the difference between self-perception and reality.

Update 6/13:

See below for a visual slideshow of this blog post:



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