Body Language For Public Speaking: Non-Verbal Messages Speak Loudly

Body language for speech

Speeches are comprised not only of words but body language, a non-verbal form of communication. The way you hold yourself, move your hands and make eye contact influence how people receive your speech, whether they hear it in person or see and hear it on video.

Have you ever wondered why certain speakers effortlessly captivate their audience’s attention, leaving a lasting impression long after the applause fades? The answer lies in their ability to harness the power of non-verbal communication. Body language during public speaking matters!

While words carry meaning, the unspoken messages conveyed through body language often make the greatest impact. Understanding the subtle cues, gestures, and expressions that underpin effective body language is a valuable skill for anyone who aspires to become a persuasive public speaker.

This article delves into body language during public speaking, uncovering the secrets to projecting confidence, connecting with your listeners, and making your words truly memorable.

Why Is Body Language Important For Good Speeches?

Body language is crucial for good speeches because it enhances the overall impact and effectiveness of the message. It adds depth and authenticity to the speaker’s communication, allowing them to connect with the audience on a deeper level.

Non-verbal cues such as body posture, gestures, and facial expressions convey confidence, credibility, and enthusiasm, establishing trust and capturing listeners’ attention.

Non-verbal communication in speeches

By effectively understanding and utilizing body language, speakers can elevate their speeches, make their message more engaging, and leave a lasting impression on their audience.

Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, is a particularly adept exponent of body language in public speaking. Based on her research, your body language triggers positive or negative reactions among audience members, who may turn off what you’re saying if they don’t like your non-verbal messages.

How Do Body Language And Gestures Differ?

Body language refers to the entire spectrum of non-verbal communication, which includes gestures. Body language encompasses all the physical cues and signals expressed through body movements, postures, facial expressions, eye contact, and other non-verbal elements.

On the other hand, gestures specifically pertain to intentional hand, arm, and body movements used to emphasize or illustrate a point during communication.

While gestures are a significant component of body language, body language itself encompasses a broader range of non-verbal cues beyond just gestures.

How Does Body Language Promote Speeches?

Body language promotes speeches by enhancing the speaker’s communication and connection with audience members. It adds depth and authenticity to your message, making it more engaging and memorable.

Effective body language, such as confident posture and mannerisms, appropriate gestures, and facial expressions, captures attention and creates a positive impression.

It helps speakers effectively convey their message, build rapport with their audience, and leave a lasting impact.

How Does Body Language Increase Credibility?

If a speaker is talking about self-confidence, but mumbles their words, hovers around the lecture with downturned shoulders, and never looks at the audience, their words have little impact.

Body language increases credibility by aligning the speaker’s non-verbal cues with their spoken message. When the speaker’s body language is congruent with their words, it enhances the perception of authenticity and trustworthiness.

Maintaining eye contact, displaying an open and confident posture, and using appropriate hand gestures conveys competence and confidence, reinforcing the speaker’s credibility.

Consistency between verbal and non-verbal communication signals honesty and sincerity, ultimately increasing the audience’s confidence in the speaker’s message.

What Are The Seven Elements Of Body Language During Public Speaking?

Speakers use numerous types of body language to convey messages, emotions, and attitudes. These types of body language often work in combination, and their interpretation depends on cultural and contextual factors.

While there isn’t a universally agreed-upon set of seven elements of body language, here are seven key aspects or features often discussed in the context of body language:

1. Facial Expressions

The face is highly expressive, and various facial movements convey a wide range of emotions, such as happiness, surprise, anger, or sadness. Expressions include a genuine smile, frowning, raising eyebrows, or narrowing the eyes.

2. Gestures

Gestures involve intentional movements of the hands, arms, or body to emphasize or emphasize certain points during communication. Examples include pointing, waving, nodding, or shrugging.

Body language for public speaking - gestures

3. Posture

Posture refers to how a person positions their body while standing or sitting. An upright and open posture signals confidence, while slouching or crossing arms may indicate defensiveness or disinterest. Take a deep breath and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

4. Eye Contact

Eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. Sustained eye contact indicates attentiveness, sincerity, and confidence, while avoiding eye contact may suggest discomfort, dishonesty, or lack of confidence.

5. Body Movements

General body movements such as walking, swaying, or pacing reflect energy, nervousness, or restlessness.

6. Proxemics

Proxemics refers to the use of personal space during interaction. Different cultures have different norms regarding personal space, but standing too close to someone may be perceived as invasive while maintaining a comfortable distance signals respect and boundaries.

7. Microexpressions

Microexpressions are fleeting facial expressions that occur involuntarily and reveal concealed emotions or true feelings. These brief and subtle movements are difficult to detect but provide insights into a person’s underlying emotions.

Some people have a neutral facial expression that appears more like a scowl, which is often referred to as Resting Bitch Face” or RBF. Even though the person may not wish to convey displeasure, arrogance, anger, disdain, etc . their face gives off the wrong signals. Experts note some steps to reduce the effect, such as through makeup, accessories, or practicing facial gestures like looking up, flashing the eyebrows, or trying to adopt a small smile. Many speakers learn to live with their natural tendency toward RBF, but they must be aware of their expressions and try to compensate with other friendly body language.

Body language for public speaking - resting bitch face

It’s important to note that these elements of body language work together in combination to convey various messages, and their interpretation may vary depending on cultural and contextual factors.

What Is The Significance Of Eye Contact?

Eye contact is significant in communication as it establishes a connection and rapport between the speaker and the audience. It conveys attentiveness, sincerity, and confidence, enhancing the speaker’s credibility.

Maintaining appropriate and consistent eye contact demonstrates active engagement and interest, promoting trust and understanding. It also allows for non-verbal feedback, enabling the speaker to gauge the audience’s reactions and adapt their delivery accordingly.

What Is The Best Way To Use Body Language For Speeches?

The best way to use body language for speeches is to ensure that it aligns with and enhances your verbal message. Pay attention to the non-verbal cues the audience provides you with. If they look bored or restless or if people are leaving, adjust your body language and vary you voice.

Practice maintaining an open and confident posture – known as a “power pose,” make eye contact with your audience to establish a connection, and use appropriate and purposeful gestures to emphasize key points.

Be aware of your facial expressions and use them to convey genuine emotions.

Overall, strive for congruence between your words and non-verbal cues to effectively engage your audience and enhance your message’s impact.

Should Your Body Language Be Different For Video?

You should adjust your body language for video presentations. Since the audience is viewing you through a screen, you should make deliberate movements and use hand gestures that are easily seen and understood.

Use facial expressions that are slightly more pronounced to convey emotions effectively. Maintain good eye contact by looking directly into the camera instead of at your own image on the screen.

Lastly, ensure your posture and overall body language are still open, confident, and engaging, even in a virtual setting.

Consider visual aids to reinforce your message.

Public speaking on video

What To Avoid

Fidgeting while speaking will deflect from your effective projection as a public speaker. You can practice in front of a mirror to eliminate this unattractive trait.

Bad body language, such as a slovenly posture or not making eye contact, also moves your audience’s attention away from your verbal message.

Including too many filler words in your presentation is also a turn-off.

Where Can I Find Body Language Tips?

Ted Talks on their own channel or on YouTube and the Toastmasters website provide invaluable information on improving your body language and presentation skills.

Adam Howarth

Adam covers the topic of Public Speaking for Digital Authority. From his first experience of oratory with his school debating society to his more recent experiences of promoting the local business scene in Wrexham, Wales, he has always been involved in public speaking.

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