Body language expert David Alssema shares some tips for winning over the room.
When making a speech, engaging with an audience is also about what isn’t said. It’s why good speechwriters don’t always give the best speeches, and why many screenwriters stay behind the camera. Presenters or actors are good because of how they speak and the actions they make.
Here are some simple body language techniques to win over your audience.
Smile, but don’t overdo it
A smile is a universal message of trust, authenticity and a positive attitude. It is also one of the most crucial parts of maintaining a good first impression. However, try not to overdo it. Continual smiling may unnerve the audience and distract from what you’re saying.
Keep an open posture
To encourage audience receptivity, focus on standing with a straight back with your feet pointing towards the group. Make sure your hands are out of your pockets with your palms open to the room.
Move, a little
Don’t be afraid to move around if space permits. It’ll help keep your audience alert. If you’re a presenting a PowerPoint presentation, for example, look at switching between each side of the visual every few slides. But keep it under control ¬– continuously pacing the room will come across as dramatic and off-putting.
Use hand gestures on important keywords
Your hands can illustrate and emphasise points in your presentation. Use gestures to convey size, strength and conviction. But be careful not to speak to your audience with a pointed finger.
Share eye contact
To encourage attentiveness, make eye contact with audience members when presenting. Don’t stare at a particular section or audience member for too long – share your attention around the room.
Use your ears
Most presentations will involve audience participation, usually in the form of questions and answers at the end. When it is not your turn to speak, genuinely listen to and considers others’ ideas. And always use their first names if given.
Use speed and volume
Increase speed and volume slightly at the end of your presentation to create more energy and motivation for your audience to act.
Plan and practice as much as possible before your presentation. Audience engagement is much easier when you’re not looking at your notes all the time.
David Alssema is an Australian body language coach and motivational trainer. For more information, visit davidalssema.com.