Body Language Blunders that Break a Presentation

Because I wanted to give you something practical for speaking your dream out loud and because I taught college level pubic speaking… you know that class most people avoid until they are forced to take it…. I wanted to give you a very practical guide to speaking and body language.

You have a business presentation to give.  You have planned it out.  You know what you’re going to say and the statistics you are going to use.  You are ready to go… or are you?

Let me ask you this, how many times have you seen someone present and logically you know they are using the right words, have the right message, but you either find yourself drifting off or worse not really believing them?

This can happen when people know WHAT they are going to say, but not HOW they are going to say it.  Without going into the science of it, we know body language and tone of voice are key factors in whether people care about what you are speaking about.

And, let’s face it, if you spent all that time on writing a presentation, you want people to care.  You want people to get it.

You want to end VIC-TOR-IOUSSSSSSSSS!!!

So, here are Body Language Blunders to avoid.

#1. Looking at your notes.

Come on people, step away from the notes… I repeat, step away from your notes. Understand, notes are supposed to be used to keep us on track, to remind us of where we are going. Like a map, telling you when to turn. You don’t stare at yor map while drving right?

They are not supposed to be our lifeline.  But, often you will see people holding onto their notes white-knuckled as if someone might dare rip them from their grasp.  This is sometimes a result of poor preparation, but usually it is simply nerves.

Out of nervousness, people often look at their notes or powerpoint instead of at the audience.  Have you ever been in conversation and had someone keep looking at their phone? Did you feel connected to them at the time? Of course, not.  Eye contact connects you with your audience.

Action: Practice looking around the room, even when you are alone.  I always recommend my students put body language into their speech notes.

If all else fails, memorize your speech if you cannot help but keep looking down. (You’ll realize you know more than you think.)

#2. Showing us your back.

In life, we use expressions like “turned his back on me.” I think we all can agree that is definitely not a good thing. It’s not good in a presentation either.  So remember, while you’re showing us something important on your power point slide or writing on the board, we are staring at your back and to top it off, we can’t hear you or gauge what you are feeling/thinking.

Action: Never speak if looking away from your audience. Instead, explain what you want to show. Turn, point, turn back, continue speaking.  Better yet, stand to the side of your visual and practice pointing to the screen while looking out at your audience.  The best example is a meteorologist .  He looks at the camera(his audience) while showing us what is happening on the map. This just takes a little practice with your visuals.

#3. Being shifty.

Many of you may feel comfortable moving.  I am a bit of a mover and shaker myself.  Let’s face it, sometimes moving makes you feel less anxious. But, too many times I have seen speakers going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and….. aaaaahhh!!!  Pacing the stage shifts the attention off of what you are saying and ultimately distracts your audience.

Action: You have two choices, plant your feet shoulder width apart and speak staying conscious to not sway. Or, my favorite, Plan when you will move.  When you come to a new point in your presentation, move to a set point on the stage/front of the room. Not only does this allow you to move, it signals to your audience your moving to a new point in your talk. When you get to the new spot, stand and deliver. Do not move again until the next point.

#4. Being uncomfortable.

Easier said than done, am I right?  If you are not an ALLSTAR public speaker, you are probably going to be uncomfortable, but you can limit that.  Stop wearing clothes that are too tight, too loose, or don’t give you confidence. Don’t lick your teeth. (yes, people do this.) Stop messing with your hair. Don’t fumble with jewelry or watches.

Action: Pick out what you are going to wear including jewelry the night before, making sure you feel comfortable and confident in it.  There should be nothing you feel the need to mess with in the outfit, nothing that rubs, pinches, or slides up.  Make sure your hair stays out of your face on its own, so pull it up or put it behind your ears. All of these will tips will give you one less thing to worry about and that’s a great feeling.

#4. Slouching.

Posture is power.  Remember this.  When you shrink into yourself, not only are you uncomfortable, but so is your audience.  Frankly, instead of listening to you, you audience is feeling sorry for you.

Action: When you get to the front of the room take a slow breath filling your lung with oxygen and filling your body with energy. As you take in your breath, pretend you have strings attached to each of your shoulders and slowly pull them back and hold.  Chin up. Slow breath out and maintain that tall posture, breathing nervousness out. Now, own that room.

Whew, that was a mouthful! Let me know if any of these worked for you and what subject you would like me to cover next.  Happy Speaking!!




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