Over the last months I have been sharing some hot tips on what to do to be a better speaker and I have had one on what not to do. This one focuses on some bad body language and the possible negative consequences.
Just to remind you, body language accounts for up to 70% of your communication, no matter what.
Hence, you want it to work for you and enhance your communication.
Here are some of the things to avoid.
Walking on stage with anything less than looking like you own the place will not start you well.
If you walk up to speak and you are slouching or looking uncomfortable, your audience will pick this up. Instead of being focused on what you are about to say, they might feel sorry for you or worried for you. That is not what you want. It is not the best way to start. And you have started from the moment you walk up to the podium or platform. So, walk tall and confidently.
The main way to destroy what you say is to over gesture or gesture inappropriately.
You want your hands to work for you. So, any hands in pockets, hands on hips or hands pointing are likely to be seen as aggressive. They can also distract. Too many gestures; gestures that are too big and even gestures that make noises from bangles are inappropriate. You want to make definite ones that support your points and then relax the hands by your sides.
Too much moving can be really off putting.
This includes walking up and down, rocking and crossing feet. The more you move the less they listen.
So generally speaking keep feet still and a little apart. The only exception is in a huge hall where there are 1000s of people. Then a gentle walk/stroll up and down the stage can be appropriate. Never turn your back to the audience. This includes to look at a Power Point. You should have your slides in front of you and just glance at them. Make sure you are not blocking them either.
Your facial expressions must not contradict your content.
If you say you are pleased to be there, look it. Smile. What ever emotion you are expressing your face needs to mirror it. So, if it's serious and you smile, the audience is likely to think you are uncaring. This applies to eye contact too. You must be looking at them into their eyes or just between their eyes. The only exception is a big audience. This time look at groups of people, say into a grid of six into a large hall. Otherwise, make eye contact with the whole room. Do not look at the back wall or at the floor or out the window. there is no one there. Likewise, do not speak to the lectern or cards. There is no person in the podium or on the paper.
You need to look like you are a winner when you walk off.
If you hurry off or even start to leave the stage before you finish, that will create a poor final impression. So, look tall, speak up and make your body zing.
There is an earlier blog on body language. That has more on what to do than what not to do.