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Ultimate Guide to Body Language 1

Believe it or not, more than fifty percent of everyday communication takes place nonverbally.

You are constantly sending nonverbal messages. When you speak in public, your listeners judge you based on what they see, as well as what they hear.

Communication is Not Just Verbal You Know!

The aim of this blog series is to help you learn to use your entire body as an instrument of speech. As you read on, you’ll learn how nonverbal messages affect an audience and how to make your body speak as eloquently as your words. Step by step you’ll learn about four important elements of body language:

  1. Energy
  2. Posture
  3. Gestures
  4. Eye contact

What Is Body Language?

Body language is the non-verbal movement you make when you communicate, from waving your hands to involuntary making facial expressions. All of the physical body movements you convey are subconsciously interpreted by your audience. This can work for or against you depending on the kind of body language used.

Body Language

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions married to words will strengthen the impact of your speech. This should be your simple aim when speaking. To become an effective speaker, you must understand how your body speaks.

Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, once wrote:

The speaker who stands and talks at ease is the one who can be heard without weariness. If his posture and gestures are so graceful and unobtrusive that no one notices them, he may be counted truly successful.

1) Energy

The first topic on body language is definitely one of the most important. As a speaker you have a responsibility to project energy and enthusiasm for your topic.

3 simple ways to become a more energetic public speaker include:

  • Volume: If you remember nothing else about projecting energy, remember this: volume, volume, volume! Adding a little extra volume to the room (by using a microphone for example) will add energy to any performance
  • Presence: You must be sure to devote your full attention to being there in the moment. If you’re distracted, others will recognise it before you do. So be present!
  • Passion: If you’re not excited about what you’re saying, how do you expect others to be? It’s important to stay connected to your material. You need to experience the things you’re saying as you say them, to encourage your audience to do the same

2) Posture

The position of your body when presenting communicates its own special message to the audience. More than anything, it reflects your attitude, telling your listeners whether or not you’re confident and alert, and in command of the presentation. It also helps you to breathe properly, project your voice and decrease nervous tension in the body.

Body Language

Here’s a how to guide from Toastmasters official

  1. Stand straight but not rigid, with your feet about six to 12 inches apart
  2. Balance your weight evenly on the balls of your feet
  3. Lean forward just a little. Your knees should be straight but not locked
  4. Relax your shoulders, but don’t let them droop
  5. Keep your chest up and your stomach in
  6. Your head should be erect and your chin up
  7. Let your arms hang naturally at your sides

Try those 7 steps right now! Do you feel comfortable?

When speaking at a lectern (typical politician’s pose), there are two feasible options:

  • Simple rest your hands comfortably on top of the lectern
  • Avoid physical contact with the lectern completely
    • Move back a couple of inches and keep the hands nested at navel-level

Now What?

This post, part 1 of 3, was a gentle introduction to the hugely important concept of body language. You should now understand the elements required to deliver an energetic speech and demonstrate correct speaking posture. 

In the next part we turn our attention to gestures. Click here to access part 2 now.