Perhaps the most fundamental form of visual communication – indeed of all communication – is body language. This is a language which we have all learnt to speak and understand and yet it is. As body language is an important part of public speaking, your body language includes your posture, movement, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and voice. The way we carry ourselves, the gestures we use and our postures communicate much more than we realize.
Here are the most common gesture and posture mistakes that should be taken care of:
- Not using gestures at all. If you keep your hands locked at your sides, you will look nervous and your presentation will lack the visual element to accompany and enhance your words.
- Fidgeting with your hands. Be aware of what your hands are doing, such as “washing” each other, grasping each other tightly, fiddling with your watch or jewelry, etc. One of the common mistakes can be rolling and unrolling shirt sleeves while presenting. If you must hold something, such as your notes or the PowerPoint remote, be conscious of how you are holding it.
- Holding your hands behind your back. This gesture usually resembles that of a child reciting a poem at a school assembly. When not gesturing, your hands should be in the “neutral position,” hanging loosely at your sides.
- Folding your arms across your chest. Even if you are only doing this because you feel cold, this gesture will most likely be interpreted as your closing yourself off from the audience.
- Moving without purpose. Most of the time you should stand confidently in one place rather than pacing back and forth or walking aimlessly. If you do need to move, it should have a purpose. For example, walk confidently to the front of the room before you begin speaking and walk with purpose to the flipchart or to the computer.
- Shifting from your weight from one foot to the other. Many people do this unconsciously and sometimes because their feet hurt. Instead, stand with your feet firmly planted on the floor, with your weight equally distributed on both feet.
- Standing too stiffly. Yes, you should stand up straight but it should be natural, not like you are frozen at attention. Keep your shoulders back and hold your head up so you can make eye contact. This posture conveys confidence and helps you breathe more fully.
- Slouching and keeping your head down. Not only does it prevent you from looking at the audience, but it also conveys nervousness and makes it harder for the audience to hear you.