Effective presentation is an art form; a method of communication that combines both verbal and visual messages to motivate an audience. Whilst a talented wordsmith can be drafted in to help with your script, when it comes to delivery we’re not all natural born performers.
Taking the time to master a few simple body language techniques can greatly enhance the power of your presentation and transform your audience from passive observers into active participants, engaged and inspired by your message.
How we hold ourselves says a lot about our confidence and when placed in the spotlight, our posture becomes even more significant. Slouched shoulders and a downward gaze convey inhibition or, even worse, a lack of enthusiasm for the topic in question. On the other hand, posture can also suggest arrogance and a notion of superiority.
Aim for a happy medium, with an upright yet relaxed stance. Whilst that may be easier said than done, perfecting you posture will not only help you appear confident but will allow you to breathe calmly and project your voice effectively.
2. Own the Stage
Whether you’re presenting to thousands at an international conference or a meeting room of 20 delegates, know your space and use it well. A stationary presenter is unlikely to hold an audience captive. Controlled movement is essential for engagement but tread wisely – too much will divert attention, too little will appear forced.
Where possible, book a rehearsal time to work through your presentation in the space you’ll occupy.
3. Speak with your Hands
Structured non-verbal communication is the perfect complement to a well-crafted speech. Controlled gestures can help demonstrate ideas, emphasise key points and add drama to your presentation.
Use hand and arm movements to paint a visual picture that reinforces your ideas but again, keep them measured. Excessive movement will offer nothing more than an unwanted distraction.
4. Facial Expressions
Our faces are capable of expressing a range of emotions and, when done so in an animated fashion, can help drive home specific ideas. Whilst much advice will remind you to smile, an expression most suitable for almost all presentations, consider that this is not the only option.
Shock, confusion, disbelief – all states of mind you may wish to incite with your presentation. As humans, we tend to subconsciously imitate the emotions we observe on the faces of others. Cliché as it may be, practising your speech in front of the mirror can help you master the expressions that best support your message.
5. Eye Contact
Eye contact fosters a connection. If addressing a large audience it’s impossible to achieve with every member but do try and engage as much as possible.
Making eye contact not only builds trust but allows you to gage audience response and react accordingly, turning a formal speech into an open conversation.
6. Avoid Death by PowerPoint
Death by PowerPoint has become such a common occurrence it’s now an official phrase in the presenting world. Whilst a well-polished deck can support your message, you should use it as a prop and not a stand-alone feature.
Draw attention to specific visuals through the use of your body language. Direct the audience’s line of vision to slides of significance or stand back when an image is more powerful than words.
The key to any good presentation is practise. An actor doesn’t take to the stage without several rehearsals and neither should you. Whilst it may take years to master the craft entirely, taking the time to understand the use of body language will see you on your way to presenting with confidence and style.
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