Body language is a crucial element of effective public speaking. But mastering body language is not about learning a list of rules about where to put your arms and feet at which moment. Body language power comes from within… and it starts with your attitude.
Winston Churchill said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” It’s no big surprise that how you carry yourself whilst public speaking makes a tremendous impact on your audience.
Attitude impacts body language
Have you ever experienced someone practically hiding at the corner of the stage during their speech or shuffling in with shoulders slouched and slumped?
Audiences experience every nuance of a speaker… the way they look, walk, dress, and speak, within a split second of a speaker beginning. When you present yourself with an attitude of fear or discomfort it sets the rest of the stage for your entire presentation.
Start with a negative attitude towards your speaking abilities and your whole being will show it by trying to hide (sometimes subtly, sometimes literally) from the audience. Even if you ‘put on a show’ your audience can often still tell subconsciously.
If your attitude is more positive, your body will become more natural, open and confident.
When we feel like that, we don’t need a list of rules – our body simply knows what to do.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What is my attitude towards this piece of speaking?
- Do I like this material?
- Am I happy or not happy that I’m speaking?
- Am I afraid? Energized? Nervous? Apprehensive?
Do I trust that I can do a good job?
- Have I prepared?
- Am I willing to let myself succeed?
- Do I believe that what I have to say is important?
In what ways does this impact my body?
- Where exactly do I feel tense?
- How is my breathing?
- What parts of my body are tight?
Awareness allows us to change
When you become aware of your body and how you are being affected, you are able to consciously address the areas that aren’t behaving as you’d like.
Challenge a negative attitude towards your speaking by reiterating how much you DO like your topic, that you ARE prepared and that what you have to say IS important enough to be heard. Once you’re aware of your physical tension you can challenge that stress by stretching and relaxing those body parts that are straining.
Your physical presence will be directly changed by your attitude. Have pride in yourself – it’s always a privilege to be asked to speak. You had to have been asked for a reason, otherwise they would have never asked you in the first place. Maybe your personality is what they want to hear, or your extensive knowledge. Regardless, they asked YOU. You have something they want. Now go give it to them!