Body Language for Speakers

Your body language can repel or attract your audiences. So, let’s look at body language that can draw your audience in.

1) Be open. As my friend, Mark Papadas says, “Keep your body open to the audience”. Mark has shared stages with Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy and he has learned that there is a method to opening yourself up to an audience. Opening yourself up is a form of vulnerability. When we, as human beings, are nervous or threatened or frightened, our instinctive response is to cover our vital organs by crossing our arms in front of our body. When we are calm and confident, we are more likely to open ourselves up. Mark suggests walking on to the stage with the foot furthest from the audience, so that it gives the illusion of being open to the audience.

2) Open your palms to the audience. It has a welcoming affect almost like you are going in for a hug. It’s a reassuring gesture, almost like the magician who says, “See there is nothing up my sleeve”. Having your hands in your pockets or plastered to your sides or crossed in front of you does the opposite and closes you off from your audience.

3) Master your power pose. When you enter the stage with an open walk and come to the center of the stage, do your power pose. Stand with your feet shoulder length apart, shoulders back, head squared and straight ahead and wait quietly until all eyes are on you and then begin. It’s really hard to remain silent and takes some practice, but it’s amazing how effective it is. It even gets the people texting away to stop and look in your direction.

4) Get comfortable with the stage. It’s important to move about the stage in a way that keeps you open to the audience, but that allows you to cover the stage. One of our Engaging Speakers Members had a great storytelling technique that was very effective. She was relating a story about a client who had a particular problem. She began telling us about the client and their difficulty at stage left, facing the audience. Then she related that the person engaged her as her coach and the speaker moved to center stage to continued to talk about how she helped the client. Finally she moved to stage right to finish the story and tell us how much better the client’s life is now after having worked with her. It showed a flow and made a great use of the stage in visually taking us on the journey with her.

5) Stay away from the podium. Podiums are a barrier between you and the audience and they can become a crutch or a security blanket. When we first started Engaging Speakers, I was asked to do a speech. Being the introvert that I am, I was terrified, but determined to get through it. It was very interesting, because when I read my evaluations, almost every one of them said that I had been holding onto the side of the podium the entire time. I didn’t even realize it…the podium became my security blanket!

Body language is a powerful way to keep your audience engaged and responsive. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, then join Engaging Speakers and see how you can improve your presentations with positive body language.

Gail Brown, Founder of Engaging Speakers, gail@engagingspeakers.com

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