Public Speaking Can Be Fun

Free Public speaking skills tips, techniques, and advice by presentation skills expert Jacki Rose, Top Performance. Follow me on Twitter:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Body Language – stop your nervous fidgeting!

“What the heck do I do with my hands?” is one of the most common questions I get when conducting a public speaking skills training program. My answer is usually, “nothing.” Instead, I rather tell you what not to do with your hands. When you become more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people, you feel and act more natural, and your hands will do whatever they want and will fit right in with your presentation. However, you need to know what to do until then, don’t you?

What not to do: Do not put your hands in your pockets, do not put your hands in your pockets and jingle your change, do not clasp your hands in front, do not hold one arm with your other hand, do not lean on the lectern, and do not tap the lectern. In other words, do not fidget with your hands. Fidgeting doesn’t just happen with the hands, it also happens with the entire body. Have you ever seen anyone speak who appears drunk because of all the swaying they are doing, or someone who appears as if they’ve had too much caffeine because of the quick pacing back and forth, or the person who stands frozen stiff afraid to move in case someone notices them? You want people to notice you! But of course you want them to notice you as a confident, engaging, and professional presenter!

Just because you may be nervous doesn’t mean you have to show it. It’s no one’s business. Have your body language do two things:

Project total self confidence, control, and command of the room.
Stand tall with good posture. Think confident and you will look confident. Move around, but in a controlled manner, not a nervous pacing manner. For example: walk a little to the left, stop and talk, walk towards the middle, stop and talk, walk towards the right, stop and talk. Let your hands be natural by your side, or waste height in front talking with your hands a little bit, or make a gesture when you say something where you want to add some emphasis.

Enhance your speech to be more engaging.
Have your body movements match what you say. If you are telling a story about a time you were driving in the car, act out the motion of being behind the steering wheel and driving. If you mention swerving around a curve, motion and exaggerate the movement of swerving. If you crash, show them the crash and what your body did. Exaggeration is always good for effect, entertainment, and keeping your audience’s attention. The larger the audience, the larger the exaggeration.

Believe it or not, most communication is done through body language. Think of your pet, a squirrel in your back yard, or any other kind of animal. How much do they communicate verbally and how much do they communicate with their bodies? The answer is obvious. We are no different. The words you say don’t matter as much as what your body says. What is your body saying when you present in front of others and/or when you interact with others? Start paying attention to your posture, your nervous fidgeting, and your body movements. If you find that they do not portray confidence, if they do not portray control, and if they do not enhance your communication where you are more engaging in a group setting or one on one, change your body language and watch how your confidence increases, your interactions improve, and how your results become more positive.

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