Stage Body Language for Public Speaking

Many people feel nervous about public speaking. Business presenters can be particularly anxious as they are often niche industry experts and not natural performers. As we have said before, business presentations are in fact performances. And so far as performances go, we've all heard that actions speak louder than words. Voice is clearly critical to public speaking, but the truth is that a strong voice doesn’t equal a strong performance. 


You need to work your body as well as your voice. When discussing integrated performances, we regularly refer to what the audience see (your slides) and hear (your voice). It is important to remember, however, that the audience also see you. You are being watched. You are the driving force behind every sensory involvement the audience has. You are the vehicle through which they must understand your presentation sales message.

Body language is important. It is at least as important to public speaking performances as your actual language (your voice). Many books have been written about body language, some inevitably more interesting than others. Here, we highlight five powerful techniques suitable for use during your business presentations:

#1 Pointing

Although useful for adding dramatic stress, care has to be taken not to cause offence. You can create just as much impact by pointing down, into the palm of your own hand so you’re not singling out any one member of the audience.

#2 The Open Hand Bracket

Sometimes you do want to isolate an individual member of your audience, for example, you may want to give some ‘air time’ to the views of a quieter member of the audience. Using your open hands to put attention on an individual can be useful and isn’t as potentially threatening as pointing.

#3 Presentation Eye Contact

Be sure to focus on individuals rather than merely sweeping the room. Bear in mind that prolonged eye contact with one individual can seem intrusive, so strike the balance right. Establish a connection of interest and return to individuals consecutively throughout your performance.

(Read more about presentation eye contact here)

#4 Nervous Ticks

Everybody has them. Understand what yours is (ask a friend for help) and try to stop them from creeping into your performances. Typical offenders include; fidgeting, rocking, coughing, foot tapping, lip biting…

#5 Strong Gestures

Be convincing. Every hand gesture should be precise and purposeful. Remember Tony Blair’s hands (pictured), exquisitely exuding control and authority? You can only do so much with your voice and your script; it’s often up to your body to truly convince.


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