Better public speaking: Body language
In this short series of blogs, Nick Gold offers expert advice and top tips on how to hone your public speaking skills to ensure you give a speech which the audience remembers for all the right reasons. This week he addresses body language.
A speech doesn’t start when the first words leave your mouth, the speech starts moments before that, as you enter the stage. Body language is critical for the success of any speech. It should reinforce the spoken messages being delivered, moreover, it should ebb and flow with the same energy as the speech itself, to maximise the impact.
Strike the perfect balance of being natural, yet confident. This starts from the moment you walk on stage, and continues throughout your entire address. For most of us being on stage is a scary experience but own that stage, draw on every ounce of your inner-ego to feel like you belong up there.
This inner confidence will result in natural displays of exterior confidence through your resonating body language.
Confident body language comes from an inner self-assurance, combined with a strong understanding of the subject matter at hand.
But, there are some easy tricks and tips that you can use to give further impressions of control and empowerment. Body language has a powerful impact on perception, so avoid slouching and make sure you speak in a measured, modulated tone.
Own the stage by moving in a confident yet disciplined manner. Make sure you are in control and conscious of your movements as it is very easy to slip into aimless walking or a succession of odd stances.
Expression and emphasis are also very important, but make sure you control how you exploit these tools. For many of us, when speaking we use hand movements to emphasise or complement a point we are making, this prompts a very natural and conversational style of speaking.
It will also have the result of engaging the audience with your words, so they feel part of the conversation, rather than being involved in a one-way lecture. The use of expressive hand movements can provide descriptive gestures to the content.
Having said that, wandering hands can be both a blessing and a curse. If the wandering hands phenomenon is overplayed, they will provide a distraction to the speech content and leave the audience with only that lasting impression of the speaker.
Confident body language comes from an inner self-assurance, combined with a strong understanding of the subject matter at hand. However, the critical balancing act is controlling that confidence, so it doesn’t come across as overbearing to the audience.
Toe the line between this and not appearing out of control, through too much rapid movement or using physical props such as a lectern as a ‘shield’ from your audience. Finding the equilibrium will allow both you and your audience to feel at ease throughout the duration of the speech.
About the author
Nick Gold is managing director of market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy, Speakers Corner.
Alastair Pearce continues his series on creatives and introduces' Playful, that colleague whose childlike attributes disguise a genuine innovator
Salman Raza explores passive-aggressive behaviour and provides ideas on how to deal with it in others and ourselves!
Dr Lucy Shoolbred explores recent employer guidance on mental health and how organisations can ensure optimum levels of wellbeing – both general and mental in the workplace