Body Language Tips for Public Speaking

Our words convey 7% of the meaning, our tone 38%, and our body language makes up 55% of what the audience will remember.

Power Pose

  • Good posture: stand straight with your shoulders back and feet shoulder-width apart
  • Do not cross your arms, put your hands in your pocket or slouch
  • Face the audience as much as possible and keep your body open. Tilt your whole body towards different parts of the audience, so everyone feels included.

Eye Contact

  • Maintain eye contact with a specific audience member for 4 more seconds before moving to another member of the audience
  • Make eye contact in a ‘Z’ formation — look at one person at the back left corner of the room, then the back right, then to the front left, and finally to someone at the front right
  • In one-on-one settings, maintain eye contact for 9–10 seconds and then break away to save yourself from coming across as intense or like you’re starting

Hand Gestures — Storytelling tools

  • Put verbs into action by acting them out with your hands in a strong and defined way.
  • Use descriptive gestures to communicate movement, eg. shapes, size, length, etc. Use symbolic gestures to communicate numbers and position, eg. 2 fingers for the number 2 and a raised hand for a stop.
  • Vary your gestures with different parts of your body. You don’t have to just use your arms- you could use your legs, facial expressions and full-body movement as gestures too.

Movement — Use space like an actor to control the room

  • Pacing too much can distract your audience. Wait at least 2–3 minutes before moving to another area of the stage.
  • Time your movement with a change in the topic — this is a way of physically marking the transition
  • Move towards the audience when asking questions or making an important point

Expressions​

  • When trying to show shock or confusion, raise your eyebrows
  • If you’re conveying anger or concern, frown. For sad moments, frown a little and slightly tilt the sides of your lips downwards
  • When you’re happy in your story, simply smile. A smile will make your audience feel more comfortable and at ease.

Breathing

  • Warm-up your voice: inhale for 3 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds
  • Take relax and deep breaths to ensure that your voice holds power and can project
  • Use slow and measured breathing to pace your speech.​

Voice and Vocal Expression

  • Practice your volume, tone, and rhythm
  • Speak clearly and focus on your enunciations
  • Replace filler words like ah, ums, oh, so, etc. with pauses and you can use a pause to emphasize key points

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