I’m sure that you’ve heard this before, but your audience is sizing you up once they lay eyes on you. Sure, we hope that they have good listening skills, but this may not matter. You’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 seconds or so to make a good first impression. It’s not just what you say, but even more importantly it’s what your body is saying to your audience that is going determine what they think about your speech. Sure seems like we should figure out what your body is telling them…
The Eyes Have It
In the world of fancy PowerPoint slides in which we all live, it can be easy to think that it’s all of the extras like presentation tips that we bring to a speech that really count. Guess what, it’s the old standbys that will allow you to really communicate with your audience – simple things like making eye contact with them.
It turns out that your eyes are the most expressive part of your face. You do need to be careful where in the world you are giving your speech. In the West, direct eye contact is expected. Looking away or avoiding direct eye contact will make you come across as being shifty.
However, in Asian cultures, the opposite is true. Lower eyes are a sign of respect and honor. Too much direct eye contact will not be appreciated.
In the West, you want to shoot for making enough direct eye contact with your audience. You should try for making direct eye contact for roughly 60% of your speech.
Become A Mirror To Your Audience
Your audience will tell you what they are currently thinking by the way that they position their bodies. This is a great help to you when you want to connect with them.
In order to start to build a bridge from the stage to your audience, what you are going to want to do is to “mirror” your audience. This occurs when you take on the body posture and language that your audience currently has. If they are crossing their arms, then you do the same. If they are slumping in their chairs, then you do the same.
Once you’ve connected with them by mirroring their body language, then you can lead them to where you want them to go. When you uncross your arms, they’ll uncross their arms. When you stand up straight, they’ll sit up straight. You are in control of your audience when this happens.
3 Tips For Improving Your Body Language
We all know about the importance of public speaking. Having powerful and effective body language is a skill that every public speaker needs. In order to get this skill, you need to know what you have to do.
To boost your body language skills from where they are to the next level, there are 3 things that you need to do as a speaker:
- Watch People: You are going to be speaking to an audience that is already “somewhere”. You need to find out where that is and join them before you start to speak. Take a look at the body language that they are transmitting and then match them before you take the stage.
- Learn From The Pros: We can always learn from the professionals who are paid the big bucks to speak. YouTube is littered with speeches from professional speakers. Additionally, you can switch on any of the nightly news programs and watch a true professional use their body language to deliver the daily news to an audience of millions.
- Take A Step Back: In order to do a better job of using your body language to connect with your audience, you need to be able to understand what messages you are currently sending. Two ways to do this are to record yourself giving a speech and then play it back (yes, I know that this is hard to do; however, it really works) or practice giving your speech in front of a mirror.
What All Of This Means For You
In order to be an effective public speaker, you need to control not only the words that come tumbling out of your mouth, but also the story that your body is telling your audience. Being able to tell your story two different ways at the same time is one of the benefits of public speaking. This can be trickier than it sounds.
It turns out that with a bit of attention, you can control the message that your body is sending to your audience. To do this you need to be aware of your eyes, how your audience is positioning their bodies, and how others are seeing you.
Speakers who are able to combine their words and their body language so that they are both telling the same story can be very effective. Follow these suggestions and you’ll have your next audience eating out of your hand!
Question For You: If you are going to watch people in order to determine how to behave, who do you think you should watch – your host?
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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your next audience laugh. Good luck! We all know that humor is a powerful tool in the hands of a speaker; however, we all also know that on top of all of the other presentation tips that you are trying to get right, it’s quite difficult to use humor correctly. How about if we talk about two tips that will maximize the importance of public speaking and make it easy for you to have your next audience rolling in the aisles during your next speech?