MEDIOCRE presenters rely on their slides.They’ve got a nice bunch of animated slides to show,but they don’t realize the most important visual is them.As we said in the previous unit, how you say thingsis more important than what you say.Language of your body can help your audienceto understand what you say, or can make them fall asleep.
IF your facial expressions, gestures or general posturecontradict words that you utter, people will believethe former. Even if you manage to convince them,deep inside they will still feel, ‘There’s something wrong...’
THE tricky thing about body language is that peopleare usually unaware of it. It’s just natural in everyday life.But when presenting and thus nervous, it can befar from natural. When presenters see themselveson videotape, theyre often surprised to see thattheir body language had an entirely different messagefrom the one they had intended. For example,some people actually shake their heads when they say ‘yes.’
Eye contactWHEN you talk to people, you look them in the eye.If you don’t, you give the impression of having somethingto hide. People might think you’re dishonest,or that you’re not interested in the conversation,or that you’re ashamed. That day, when you came from school with bad marks, where were you looking as you told your parents about it? Anywhere but their eyes, we guess.
Eye contactAND where most of presenters look?Oh, anywhere but their audience’s eyes.Down at their notes, somewhere over people’s heads;or they pan from one side to the otherwithout really looking at anybody.Eventually, people won’t listen to them at all.Little eye contact is a guaranteed way to loseyour connection with the audience.
Eye contactALWAYS keep eye contact with your audience.You should be looking at their eyes 95 % of the time.Not somewhere in the direction of the eyes —but at the people. This way people will realize you areactually talking to them, and thus will listen to what you say.You, in turn, will see if people understand you, if they areconvinced or not. Are the members of the audienceapprovingly nodding, or are they knitting their eyebrowsin confusion? Are they looking at you too, or are theylooking for their phone, with a bored look?
Eye contactIF you are speaking to 3—7 people, this is fairly easy.Look at one person, establish the eye contact,talk for a while, then switch to another one, etc.But if you’re speaking to a large audienceand it’s impossible to look at each member in the eyes,use this technique. Choose ﬁve people sitting in differentparts of the audience, and while talking, look at them.Thanks to the distance between you and audience,all the people around each one of the ﬁve you’ve chosenwill think you are looking at them!
Eye contactHere are a few more tips on eye contact.1. Imagine that the person you’re looking at is the only person in the room.For those few seconds you’re having a private conversation with just that person.Not only will it make your talk more simple, it’ll also make you less nervous,because you’ll no longer care about this whole big audience.
Eye contact2. Keep your eyes up at the end. The most powerful time to have your eyes upis at the end of a sentence. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when most presentersdrop their eyes down so that they can look at their notes. And the powerfulimpact gets ruined. Discipline yourself to keep your eyes up till you’ve ﬁnishedyour sentence.
Eye contact3. Respect people. Some people in your audience may show that they’reuncomfortable with eye connection by looking away. Respect that by spendingless eye connection time with them.
Eye contactNOW, what reasons stop us from looking at the audience?There are two main reasons:1) you need to look at your notes,2) you are nervous.The ﬁrst one is eliminated with practicing your speechmany times in advance. This way you’ll remember whatyou have to say, and it will allow your eyes to be focusedon the audience. Most presenters don’t practice as muchas needed, though — and it shows.
Eye contactAS for the second reason, nervousness, mostly it comesfrom being unprepared as well. We talked about waysto eliminate it in Unit 0. Try them and you’ll seethat the more you prepare and rehearse your talk,the less nervous and the more conﬁdent you become.
Eye contactONE more important thing about notes.You may read from your notes only if you needto make a long and complex quotation.Otherwise, never read. If you forgot the next thought,make a pause, look at the notes, lift your eyes back up,establish eye contact — and start speaking again.
Facial expressions and head movementsYOUR facial expressions must supportwhat you’re saying and not contradict with it. Simple example: if you say, ‘It’s terrible’, and at the same time smiling, it’s strange. People will think you’re ironical. They won’t understand that it’s a nervous smile. Another example: you’re saying, ‘It’s very, very important for us,’ but your face is tired and shows no emotion. What will your audience think? ‘Right, it’s so unimportant that even the presenter doesn’t care about it.’
Facial expressions and head movementsNOD, smile, raise eyebrows, express different emotionsto reinforce your meaning and convince people. Remember, when a mother is spoon-feeding her baby, she herself is opening her mouth and grimacing as if she’s eating. And that helps the baby realize what to do.
Facial expressions and head movementsBUT at the same time, don’t over-grimace —you’re not a drama actor,and you’re not spoon-feeding babies.
Hand movementsDO use your hands. Hand movements have the sameimportance as facial expressions: they emphasize whatyou say in words, express emotion. Have you seenﬁshers telling you just how big their ﬁsh was?
Hand movementsMOST people have their own gestural vocabulary.Anyone can think of a gesture that supports wordssuch as ‘short’ or ‘tall’, or how to emphasize a thought(raise the index ﬁnger, for example).
Hand movementsBUT everyday gestures are often too smallto use in front of a large audience.Presenters need to scale their gestures to the sizeof the room. It doesn’t mean swinging your arms.It means making sure your gesture can be seenfrom another end of the room. That’s whythe most effective gestures arise from the shoulder,not the wrist or elbow; and they look more energetic.
Hand movementsWHAT should you not do with your hands?
Hand movementsWHAT should you not do with your hands?First, don’t hide your hands. Hiding hands lookslike you’re hiding something from the audience,being dishonest.In addition to that feeling of being dishonest,keeping your hands behind your back, like a drill sergeant,makes you look aggressive.And keeping your hands in pockets,you look like you’re bored with your speech yourself.
Hand movementsSecond, don’t do ‘closed’ gestures. Closed gesturesmean there’s something between you and your audience,something not letting them reach to you. Unconsciouslypeople feel that you’re ignorant and reserved.These gestures are e.g. keeping your arms crossed;holding your notes with both hands in front of you;keeping your hands in a ‘preacher position’(hands in front of you, ﬁngers touching).
Hand movementsAVOID presenting behind a lectern.Lecterns are too formal and, closing you from audience,greatly limit your gestures and expressiveness.But if you really are presenting behind a lectern,don’t make it worse by grasping its sides with your hands!Try to adjust gestures to your upper-body area.
Hand movementsThird, don’t do distracting gestures.Don’t clap, knuckle crunch, or play with a marker.
StanceHOW to stand in front of the room speaksbefore open your mouth. A balanced stancewith weight slightly forward tends to say that the speakeris engaged with the audience. A slumped stanceleaning to one side can says the speaker doesn’t care.
StanceTHUS, stand squarely on both your feetwhen you’re not moving around.The feet should point straight ahead.Avoid standing unbalanced: with your weight on one legand the other foot wound around it; or putting one footforward with the toes raised.Don’t hunch, don’t sway from side to side.
StanceWHEN not gesturing, the hands should sit quietlyat the sides of the presenter. It is called a zero position.Another possibility for zero position is holdingthe left wrist in your right hand.Yes, mostly of the time you will move around and gesturemore often than usually in life. But that movementshould be punctuated with stillness, like pauses punctuateyour talking. Constant motion, such as swaying,is a distraction that can annoy your listeners.
StanceKEEP an open posture, i.e. nothing is placed between youand your audience. When writing on a ﬂip chart orwhiteboard, don’t turn your back to your audience fully;and don’t speak until you’re looking at your audience again.
IN general, watching great presentation masterson the Internet will be a great help.Watch how they move, what gestures they use,and how it emphasizes what they are talking about.Pay attention to every little detailsthat make up the whole image.But be yourself and don’t copy directly.Find the equivalents that will be comfortable for you.