What Language Is Your Body Speaking?

When you give a speech, your body is also talking to your audience
When you give a speech, your body is also talking to your audience
Image Credit: Glenn Loos-Austin

Did you know that every time you take a stage in order to deliver a speech, there are really two speakers standing up there? Yes, of course, you are one of them. You understand the importance of public speaking and have a speech that you’ve prepared, practiced, and are just about ready to share with your audience. However, it turns out that your body has its own speech that it is just about ready to deliver to your audience also. Where things can get interesting is when your body’s speech is different from the one that you were planning on giving.

What Is Your Face Saying?

Your #1 communication tool with your audience is your face. Your face may even be more important than the words that you are saying. This is because we’ve all been trained to watch the face of the person who is talking to us. Millions of years of evolution have taught us to pick up on even the smallest facial signs in order to discover what the speaker is really thinking.

You can enlist your face to help you deliver your next speech better. This means raising your eyebrows dramatically in order to communicate surprise. Smiling to show your audience that you are enthusiastic about a given point. Finally, you can frown when you are trying to communicate disappointment. Your face will allow you to reinforce the overall emotional tone that you want to set for your speech.

Do You Know How To Use Gestures?

As speakers, we actually have very few tools available to us when we are giving a speech. A few PowerPoint slides and that’s pretty much it for what most of us feel that we have to work with. However, it turns out that you do have one very powerful tool at your disposal: gestures. The trick is knowing how to best use this tool.

The most important thing to understand about using gestures with a speech is that they have to match what you are saying. Making a gesture that has nothing to do with what you are saying at the time will only end up confusing your audience. One of the most important things that I tell my students about gestures is that you need to make them big and you need to make them up high so that even the people sitting in the back of the room can see what you are doing.

Make Your Point With Movement

When speakers are running through how best to make their points stick with their audience, they often forget about one of their largest tools: their body. We’ve been told for so long what not to do with our body that it’s very easy to forget what we should be doing with it. No, you should not fidget or just stand in one spot for the entire speech. However, if not this, then what should we be doing?

Our bodies provide us with a great way to communicate change to our audience. During the course of your speech you should plan on moving around the stage. However, you need to be prepared to do this with a purpose. When you are switching topics you should move to a new position on the stage. Additionally, if you ask your audience a question during a speech, you should move towards them while you are asking the speech in order clearly communicate that you are asking them something.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Every time that we give a speech we have one goal in mind: we want to share the benefits of public speaking with our audience and we want to change their world. This means that we need to take the time to very carefully control the message that we are sending to our audience. What we can forget is that our bodies are using their own body language to also send their own message to our audience and we need to make sure that it is the same message that we are trying to send.

One of the most important components of the body language that our audience will be reading on us is our face. We need to take the time to control when we frown and how we use our eyebrows. Gestures can go a long way in helping us to make our point during our speech. We need to remember to use them when they are appropriate. Finally, we can use our entire body to help make our point. We need to remember to move when we want our audience to understand that a change is happening in our speech.

We can never stop our body from telling a story to our audience. However, what we can do is to understand what that story is. Once we know this, we can then take steps in order to ensure that our body language story is the same one that we’ll be telling with our words. Take the time to make sure that your body language story is in harmony with your spoken words!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it would be worth the effort to videotape yourself and then watch it with the sound off in order to determine what your body language story is?

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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

Life can be rough. We are not always in control of what is going on and things happen that we don’t want to have happen. It’s bad enough when things like this happen to us, but it’s even worse when it happens to others. As public speakers, there will be times when because of the importance of public speaking we are called upon to use our public speaking skills to deliver bad news to an audience. Once you get over your initial reaction to run away, you’re going to have to make some decisions about how you want to deliver this news.