Take Command of the Room
with Strong Body Language
By Sheri Jeavons
makes one presenter persuasive and powerful, and another weak and
ineffective? Contrary to popular belief, the answer is not your
content. In his book Silent Messages, Albert Mehrabian
reveals three elements that most influence an audience. According to
his research, these three elements make an audience want to buy from
you, promote you, hire you, and even want you as part of the team.
In addition, Mehrabian ranked these elements in order of importance
to the audience. Here’s what he found:
Your verbal ability, or your content and
knowledge about your topic, counts for only 7 percent of
the audience’s perception of you.
Your vocal ability, or how you speak,
including your tone, pitch and inflection, counts for 35
percent of the audience’s perception of you.
Your visual presence, or how you
physically look while presenting, counts for a whopping 55
percent of the audience’s perception of you.
means audience members make snap decisions about your credibility
and level of expertise based on how you look and sound, not on what
you say. Amazing! That means your physical conduct and how you
manage your body while communicating has more of an impact than what
you actually say.
body language can only take you so far, and if you want people to be
engaged with your presentation long-term, you will need to say
something meaningful and your content will matter. But since body
language sets up the initial perception, you need to know the
following rules to communicate strong body language to your
audience. Mastering these skills will give your message more meaning
and impact leading your audience to act faster than ever before.
For the following guidelines, the assumption is that you’re standing
as you present; however, you can still use all of these guidelines
if you are giving your presentation from a seated position. Simply
modify them as needed.
at one person for a complete thought when you make an important
statement. Avoid looking down at your hands or at your notes;
instead look at the individuals in your audience for at least three
to five seconds to really connect. Once you have connected with one
person, slowly move your eyes to another person and repeat the
your time working your eyes from one person to the next. Slow
decisive eye contact communicates confidence. It also helps you
think more clearly, slows your speaking pace, which makes you sound
more authentic, and allows your body to gesture naturally.
you’re looking at someone, completely physically address that
person. We refer to this as squaring up to the person you are
talking to. Make sure your toes, shoulders and hips are all facing
the person you’re addressing. You want your body in total alignment
with one or two people. When you first attempt to square up, it may
feel a little robotic and stiff, but as you practice this new skill
it will become more natural and will enhance your overall physical
presence. This stance sends the message that you’re confident,
strong, and in control. When your body is facing the person you are
looking at, it also becomes easier to gesture naturally.
tall with your weight even on both feet. Shifting your weight from
leg to leg or slouching sends the message that you’re unsure of
yourself. When you lean from side to side you probably notice that
your hands lock in a folded position. Standing tall tells the
audience you believe in what you are saying. It also helps your
upper body stay relaxed and open, which promotes more natural
leaning on things such as a table, the wall or a lectern. Stay away
from any behavior that could be perceived as distracting such as
playing with change in your pocket. It is best to keep your hands
free from holding objects such as notes or a pen. When your hands
are free they are available to gesture naturally, which helps you
convey your information with more conviction.
you choose to walk while you present, that’s fine. Once you’ve
walked to address a person, stand still and speak a few sentences
without moving so that you create a sense of command and power with
your body language. You may choose to walk across the room or take
one step toward a person. Just remember to address the individuals
in the room with your whole body.
you walk, walk with a purpose. There are only three reasons to walk
during your presentation: 1) Walk to the computer so you can change
slides; 2) Walk to your screen to point to something important; 3)
Walk to an audience member so you can address that person directly.
All other forms of movement typically aren’t necessary.
Volumes without Saying a Word: Strong body language indicates
confidence in your content. So practice these six guidelines and
watch your audience’s perception of you improve dramatically. Once
people see that your body language is confident; your message will
have a higher impact and move your listeners to action quicker and
easier than ever before.
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