What You Know About Body Language Is All Wrong
Did you know that when you are delivering a speech, there is always another conversation going on? No, I’m not talking about your rude audience (although they may be talking also), instead I’m talking about your body – it’s having its own conversation with your audience. Maybe you should know what it’s saying…?
The fact that we are always communicating with our audience through body language should come as no surprise to anyone. However, what might catch your attention is that most of what you think that you know about how to read body language is probably wrong. It’s just urban myths that have been told over and over again.
A quick example might help me to make my point: what’s the best way to make a first impression with someone? If you’re like me, you’ll assume that greeting them with a lot of energy will show spunk and drive – all good things. It turns out that we’d be wrong. Dave Zielinski has been looking into this and he reports that most people believe that people who are low energy and restrained have the most self-confidence.
There is nothing that we can do about preventing our body language from sending messages to our audience. However, the one thing that we can do is learn to read other people’s body language more effectively.
Have you ever had to give a speech early in the morning? The 900 lb gorilla in the room is the fact that everyone is still sleepy – several of them have probably not even woken up yet. What’s the best way to get some energy into the room?
If you are like most speakers, you’ll rely on what we’ve all been told is the best way to wake up an audience: hit them with a high-energy presentation delivered at a loud volume. It turns out that this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, what you need to do is to start out at their energy level (low) and then gradually raise the energy up and allow them to come along with you.
How about when we see people in our audience who have their arms crossed over their chest? They must be resisting our message, right? Probably wrong – check the temperature in the room – they may just be cold!
In the end, once you get comfortable understanding what your audience’s body language is really telling you, you’ve got to adjust your body language so that they can connect with you. What really matters in your speech is not a lot of body language rules, but rather your voice quality & variation, conviction, strong content, and good eye contact.
What All Of This Means For You
Body language is something that every speaker needs to be aware of. However, we also have to understand that we are probably interpreting it incorrectly because it’s so hard to read. Don’t spent too much time trying to follow a set of body language “rules” because it will take away from your speech.
Instead, do what comes naturally to you. This will allow you to more fully focus on giving the best speech possible and you won’t get tripped up trying to remember a long list of do’s and don’ts.
In the end, if you can allow you body and mind to deliver the same speech then your audience will get a consistent message and you’ll be successful in connecting with your audience.
Do you think that your body language helps or hurts you when you give a presentation?