In my last article I discussed the importance of using your face to express emotion in public speaking. In addition to your facial expression, though, is the language of your body because the latter talks as well during your presentation. The question is, ‘what is it saying?’
Standing perfectly still, rigid, or immobile during a presentation (or even a speech where you are somewhat limited by the presence of a lectern) says one thing to your audience. That you are most uncomfortable and would rather be somewhere else! Now, that may be true; however, it is the wrong message to send if you are addressing an audience. Whatever your purpose in speaking, be it a requirement for a presentation skills class, an order from above in your company, your introduction at a chamber event or networking club, or perhaps your desire to become a professional speaker, if you do not move during your delivery your audience will.
Good public speaking means that you captivate your audience. In order to do so, you must move. Your movement, which is part of your body language, will help keep their attention on you. If, on the other hand, you stand perfectly still, then it is likely you will be speaking with very little expression. When that happens, your audience will move out of boredom. They will fidget; they might talk amongst themselves; they could check their iPods, they may even get up and leave.
So how much movement is good movement? That is very individual but a good test would be to video-record yourself before giving your presentation and study it carefully. Do you use your hands when you speak or are they hanging limp at your sides? Do you move around when you address your ‘make believe’ audience or are you frozen in one spot?
If you naturally use your hands when in conversation, then you should be doing the same thing during your presentation. If you naturally move a bit in conversation; i.e, shaking your head, moving your shoulders, changing your weight from one leg to the other if you are standing, then you should be doing the same thing at the lectern.
If, on the other hand, you are not using a lectern, walk. Don’t pace, just walk a few steps. Stop, turn to look at another section of the room, maybe walk in that direction. There is no pattern. Moving towards your audience creates intimacy and you will hold their attention much more so in this manner than if you stand, frozen to one spot.
Whatever you do in normal conversation is what you should do in public speaking. The best in the business treat their audience as if they were having a conversation in their living room. In doing so, they act naturally. If you have difficulty with this advice, it would be wise to work with someone in presentation skills who can teach you how to ‘let go and let be.’
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. To see how voice training can improve your life, both professionally and personally, visit Voice Dynamic or watch a brief video as The Voice Lady describes The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speaking.
Additional Resources covering Public Speaking can be found at: