The official Ginger opinion on body language in public speaking is that YES… body language matters. But it matters in a different way to what you might think…
The world of public speaking training is full of lists of how you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be behaving when you step on stage. These lists act as reasons why you’re not the perfect public speaker… and can make us more nervous, rather than help us to shine as public speakers. This isn’t what you need.
Ginger public speaking takes a different approach.
What I’m not interested in is the mechanics of public speaking… “put your hand here” or “put your eyes there” or “stand back with your shoulders here or your legs there” or or or… well you get the idea. That type of body language advice means a set of rules that makes you a more nervous rather than a more natural speaker.
The truth is, the speakers who have the most power to impact an audience are those who are the most natural and the most authentic – not the speakers who follow body language ‘rules’ to the letter.
To get a healthy, confident approach to body language in public speaking, think about
- How it affects your confidence
- How it impacts the audience.
There are no true “rules” of body language, yet our choice of how we use our body language affects how we are able to get our message across. Instead of rules, I would encourage you to develop awareness about how your body language impacts your message. This will make you a more flexible and powerful speaker who has the power to do what the audience needs in that moment.
Look at it like this…
- Start at different parts of your body from the top down.
- Get curious. Think about all the different ways you might use different parts of your physical being; your eyes, hands, or even posture in general.
- What do you already do well with your body language that helps to inspire your audience? What do you do that distracts your audience, or reduces your impact?
- Ask yourself:
- What am I doing in the moment as a speaker?
- What’s going on with my eyes?
- What’s going on with my hands?
- What’s going on with my body?
- What’s going on with my feet?
- How does this positively affect my audience (what’s good about it?)?
- What could I do differently and better to inspire my audience?
For example, if you don’t have enough eye contact your audience might think “Yikes. This person is a bit nervous or not feeling very connected to me. I can’t relate to this speaker. They’re not looking at me and they’re not engaged. Why should I even listen?”
What’s most important is not so much eye contact with the audience but the effect eye contact has on the audience.
Sometimes it might be good to look up in the air instead of directly at the audience (to illustrate a point for example), or it might make you more approachable to have your hands in your pockets – so you can ditch those traditional ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’s.
Awareness of your body language matters. It’s great to get feedback from other people, particularly an expert, on how your body language comes across. For example we have a great 1 day Foundations of Excellent Public Speaking Course in London that focuses on exactly this.
With greater awareness, you gain greater control over your body language so that you can make choices. You can then make these choices about how you move, how you gesture, how you physically interact and engage with the audience.
Body language matters in public speaking – but it’s the impact of that body language, not the ‘rules’ that really matter.