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Monday, July 2, 2012

Body Language in Skilful Presentations

From the Skilled Presenter (click here)

This next quality of skillful presenting is a ‘biggie’. Its’ all about


Body language speaks volumes.

Just have a look at these 2 pictures and see what you read in to the body language there.
It’s quite easy isn't it?

So if it’s easy for you to see here, how easy it for your audience to interpret your body language during a presentation?

And I use the word “interpret” deliberately, because here’s a truism:

What the audience sees is what the audience believes!

I don’t care if you are saying “that’s not the way I feel” – what matters is how your audience interprets what your body is saying.

For example, out of habit you may be fiddling with a ring on your finger during a presentation. To the audience that means “he’s nervous” – whether you are not doesn’t matter, it’s how the audience sees it. Get the point?

So you’ve got to be very aware of what message you are (unconsciously) sending out – is it positive, is it friendly, is it persuasive?

The most common negative habits are:

  • Presenting with your arms folded in front of you (=”What I say goes!)
  • Putting your hands in your pockets (=I’m nervous but don’t want to show it)
  • Fiddling with coins in the pocket/playing with a pen /playing with the whiteboard marker (=” I’m really nervous”)
  • Pointing at the audience with a pointer or pen (=”now just to listen to me”).
So what’s a good stance to adopt?

I recommend you start with your feet very slightly apart, square on to the audience, with your hands loosely at your side, or, if that feels uncomfortable, clasped lightly in front of you.

In all cases you want to make it easy for you to gesture (and we’ll deal with gestures in the next blog post).

But this matter of boy language is a two-way street!
What do I mean by that?

Well, while the audience will interpret your body language, you can also interpret theirs!

  • So if you see a sleepy look coming over people – then liven up the presentation or take a break.
  • If you see a puzzled look coming over people’s faces – then explain the point again, they haven’t understood it.
  • If they look bored – well you know what to do then – throw something surprising into the presentation to wake them up!
So please don’t take this matter of body language as just a ‘classroom’ subject – it’s an essential element when it comes to right brain presentations.

Now I mentioned earlier that gestures are part of body language, so in my next post I’m going to talk about that subject all by itself.

From the Skilled Presenter (click here)


Anonymous said...

Body language does mean a lot in even a causal conversation. I'm sure that this meaning intensifies even more when giving a presentation or trying to persuade someone of something. It's important to know how you are coming off to your audience, and everyone can see the reactions of the audience; just throwing in something to wake them up seems like it would take a lot of practice and confidence though.

-Nicole H.

Anonymous said...

I actually just had a situation in the previous course I took in the beginning of summer where I had planned this elaborate presentation, thinking it would be nothing short of brilliant. I prepared extensively, found a topic my professor had briefly mentioned in class but seemed excited and passionate about it. I definitely thought it would be home run! Oooh look at me, the super attentive student... umm not so much. While the rest of the class was thoroughly engaged, I kept glancing to the back of the room to find the good Doctor with his feet propped up, deep in his ipad! I was pacing around, trying to throw key points that he had taught, while staring at him like I expected him to burst into flames. Nothing. Now being that he is a doctor, I'm sorry, Surgeon, I didn't want to stomp up and down like some spoiled child who wasn't receiving the attention she THOUGHT she deserved. I tried to calm myself down and pull my life together before completely freaking out and causing a scene. A few days went by and I was still reeling about it, (I'm Sicilian and physically can not let things go by nature) so I decided I would bust him on it. Turned out, he thought it was hysterical and admitted he had just gotten the ipad and had poor timing. He did however go over my power point and paper after the big fit I pitched, and said it was an excellent presentation. I really make it a point to stop and listen to anyone who has the floor, regardless of the subject or how it is being presented. Everyone deserves a respectful audience, no matter what. To look someone in the eye, and smile not only when you are speaking to them, but when they are speaking to you, is an excellent confidence booster and just plain makes people feel good. It's the little things... :)

Jess Kobayashi
COM 101 Summer sec 4566
2 July 2012