3 Body Language Tips to Improve your Public Speaking

Body language plays the biggest role in the way we see and judge each other and impacts things like hiring and promotion. It even intimidates us or disarms us. For example, body language communicates dominance. When showing power, we tend to stand taller, have a posture that’s straighter, and keep our shoulders back. On the contrary, when we feel powerless, we usually do the opposite of this.

Here are 3 body language tips to improve your public speaking skills:

1. Where to keep your hands!

A very basic, but also an extremely common question. Just keep them on the side. That’s it. Yes, it’s going to feel weird. Get used to it. For the majority of your time standing up and speaking, keep them on the side. Of course, in between you should use them to articulate your point… ideally the palms should be out to the side facing the audience, as if you’re showing them something to the right or to the left. Avoid keeping your hands locked behind, in front covering your groin, in your pockets, or folded on your chest. Avoid rubbing or fidgeting or holding things like a pen/paper when you don’t need it as much. And avoid pointing at the audience or anywhere whether you’re making a point or asking someone in the audience for something.
For a demo on most of this, watch the speakers’ hands in this TED talk.

improve your public speaking skills

2. Feeling under-confident? “Fake it till you make it” actually works!

Merely adopting a “power pose” can change the neural and hormonal connections in our bodies, thereby making us feel more confident (or less confident, depending on the pose). She talks about a study where participants were asked to adopt high-power or low power poses for two minutes and then asked how powerful they felt. Those who used high-power poses felt more confident. In summary, the “fake it till you make it” ideology does have a scientific basis. (These Power Poses are described in a popular TED talk on the subject by Amy Cuddy. You can see the video here.)

3. Smiling is going to increase your likeability and engagement.

When you smile, people perceive you as warm, likeable, and more competent, according to a recent study at Penn State University. Obviously, your smile needs to be genuine. Some people don’t have a problem with this, while others have a “resting bitch face” or a serious face. In that case, you need to find things that make you truly happy and incorporate that in your content…. a story or joke or something… or simply smiling when you make eye contact with multiple people in the audience (please don’t hold the gaze for longer than a second, for obvious reasons!) as if to say, “I’m happy to have this opportunity,” or “I’m thankful that you’re all listening.”
Watch the TED talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling” by Ron Gutman at TED.com

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