While what you say is very important, most often it’s the non-verbal cues you give that will determine how the audience responds to your presentation. Your body language, the subtle movements and gestures you make as you speak, is crucial. The right body language can help you build a rapport with your audience, and add impact to your content. But, the wrong body language can make your presentation less effective.
Here are a few important tips to keep in mind whenever you’re giving a presentation:
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Audience
Nothing conveys confidence and authority more than direct eye contact. Failure to look at the people you’re presenting to may give the impression that you’re insecure, or even worse, dishonest. What’s the key to maintaining eye contact throughout your presentation? Preparation! Know your content well, so you can look at your audience instead of your notes or slides.
2. Avoid “Blocking”
Certain gestures – like crossing your arms, putting your hands in your pockets, or standing behind a podium or laptop – can make you appear standoffish or unfriendly, and hinder your ability to connect with your audience. This type of body language is known as “blocking”, and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, walk around the room and try to use deliberate hand gestures to emphasize what you’re saying.
3. Smiles and Other Facial Expressions
While all types of facial expressions can help you stress key points, and should be used for emphasis wherever possible, the most powerful one in your arsenal is your smile. Nothing relaxes an audience and builds rapport faster. Unless the content of your presentation is somber in nature, which would make smiling inappropriate, smile as often as possible. This is particularly important when presenting over the Web – believe it or not, those listening really will hear it in your voice.
4. Be Aware of Your Posture
Presenters need to be commanding, and demonstrate an air of authority in order to gain credibility with their audience. Therefore, slouching, leaning, and shifting your weight from one leg to another is not the ideal way to stand as you speak. Keeping your back straight and your shoulders up will convey your confidence to attendees.
5. Your Attire Really Does Matter
Whether it is more appropriate to dress in formal wear, or business casual attire is debatable, and depends greatly on who your audience is. But, whatever outfit you choose, make sure your clothing is not distracting. Avoid bright colors, busy patterns, noisy jewelry, and other items that may draw the eye, or make it difficult for the audience to hear you as you’re speaking.
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