What sort of image do you want to project when you are presenting? Who does the audience see? How will they remember you after this presentation? Are you professional, poised, articulate? Are you warm, folksy, creative, nurturing? Maybe you want to be seen as ballistic, confronting, no-nonsense, boot camp material. This is what the audience will remember of you and this image must work to add power to the impact of your presentation, not undermine it. Image and message must work together. Whatever you may be trying to achieve, don’t let the impact you create with your image be an accident. In this article, we look at how to make body language work towards creating that image.
The first step is to articulate the image you want to project before you start. This is vital, and I have covered it in another article. Everything the audience sees needs to reinforce that image – clothes, facial expression, stance and gesture. At its most basic this means projecting confidence and sincerity. Unless you decide otherwise, the audience needs to know that you are comfortable with your message and believe in it.
If you are also using this presentation to showcase yourself as the face of your business, or as a candidate for a position, then take that into account as well. You need to be seen as trustworthy, competent, at ease with your material.
Projecting confidence begins way before you stand up to speak. If you need more information about techniques to overcome nerves, visit my web pages on the subject or you can enroll in my free Minicourse on overcoming nerves.
When you do stand, then, there is confidence in your walk and in your stance. Your head would be up and your back straight.
A smile conveys confidence.
Standing with feet firmly flat on the floor is a good way to start.
Confidence is comfortable and relaxed.
A person who is confident and sincere has open body language. Be aware of your arms crossing your body and crossing your legs. Nonchalance has its place but slouching does not, if you want to project enthusiasm.
Making eye contact with the audience is also vital in projecting confidence and sincerity. Looking people in the eye in any form of face to face contact means you are not afraid of being caught out. You are not lying or deceiving. So use it as much as you can in your public speaking.
Gestures need to be relaxed not forced.
Think about your clothes and how they will contribute to your image. Generally, it is best to dress a level above your audience. Colour will contribute to your image. Blue will support sincerity. And depending on the situation and your audience, red will communicate energy and passion, grey – security, reliability, intelligence; orange – warmth, energy, balance. You can research this further, but the main point is to be aware of colour and what it is communicating about you.
Beyond all of that, though, you need to be comfortable. Try the clothes on beforehand and make sure they will support what you need to do. Stilettos may be inappropriate if you are presenting on a stage with cracks between floor boards, for example. If you are presenting outside, make sure your tie or scarf will not flap in the breeze. If you are wearing a jacket, make sure it allows any grandiose gestures or reaching for a high spot on a white board.
Everything about you must work with your message to convey the image that you have chosen.