Basics of Public Speaking
~ A Step by Step Guide to Successful Presentations ~

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Lesson 10 - Body Language in Public Speaking

In any presentation, up to 90% of your message is nonverbal. The audience sees your body language, your eye and hand movements, how tall you stand, how you move, the strength and tone of your voice instantly, even before you have spoken your first sentence. If you are stiff or not moving, if you don't move your hands or make eye contact with the audience, then you are missing an opportunity to connect with them.

For beginning presenters, there are two extremes. Some speakers use no movement at all. They stand in front of the audience almost like a statue. Other speakers, even many speakers with some experience, use a lot of meaningless movements. They might move around the room too much. (Moving around a lot is good if you want to communicate energy, if you want there to be some excitement in the air, but you have to use just the right amount.) Or they make many unnecessary hand movements, often two or three hand movements with every sentence.

Not only do extra movements fail to communicate, they also can be distracting to the audience. The most common advice is to "be natural", but how do you do that? Start by focusing on these points:

    The most common problem in using hands is too much movement. Try not to move your hands to emphasize every sentence. Instead, just keep your hands at side, or folded in front MOST of the time, then use your hands only when you want to emphasize an important point
    Be sure to keep eye contact during the speech. Do not look down, nor look up at the ceiling. Many inexperienced speakers look up at the ceiling when they have memorized a speech and can't remember a line. (This will never happen if you follow my advice in Lesson 2 - just remember the main points, not the whole speech.)
    Some speakers only look to one side of the room, often in the direction of whoever introduced the speaker, or in the direction of an important person in the audience. Instead, you should look slowly from side to side, to make eye contact with the whole audience
    Your ultimate goal, with practice, is to be able to move with a purpose. You only have to change position, when making a transition to a new section of your speech.
This "nonverbal" communciation also includes how to use your voice to impact the audience. Learn all about this important topic in Lesson 11!

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