Last week’s article on public speaking gaffes garnered some thought-provoking comments – so let’s continue our discussion on speaking…
As a business owner, you already know that speaking is one of the fastest and most powerful ways to get our message out to many people at once.
You’ve probably also discovered that the first impression a speaker makes happens before she even opens her mouth. That’s the power of body language.
So how do you ensure that your body language has impact when you are in front of a crowd, or making a video, or even entering a networking event…
Here are 5 simple hacks to UPLEVEL your impact in any public setting:
1 – Posture with Presence
Posture with presence is about length and alignment, without the tension of a puffed out chest, or stiff back.
A few guidelines:
- Evenly distribute weight between your toe and heel. Stack ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears, using a mirror or friend’s eyes to check that you’re lining up.
- Relax your shoulders and lengthen your neck, allowing shoulders to roll slightly back as opposed to hunched forward. Expand across the ribcage, rather than arching up.
- Contract lightly at the belly. No, you’re not “sucking it in” like when you’re at the beach comparing yourself to the teenagers at the other umbrella. You’re simply holding an active awareness that gathers there, gently stretching the lower back.
Your presence is expansive. It reaches beyond the edges of the physical body. Standing and moving with that awareness alone broadcasts your presence. It’s the opposite of hiding. Practice this when you’re not on stage and it’ll get more natural at your next public speaking event.
2 – Friendly Eye Contact
From Christine’s “Imperfect Action” Files: The first video I ever made was way back when I was a musician. I filmed a DVD for my fans called “Backstage Guitar Lesson,” teaching them how to play some of my most requested songs. A year or two ago, someone on my team found it and laughed uproariously through the entire video. I didn’t look at the camera once. 🙂 It has taken me a while to get over that shyness, but now I love eye contact, even with a camera.
Eye contact in any situation where you’re interacting with people forges the connection, puts both you and the listener at ease, and demonstrates that you’re showing up unafraid. (Or afraid, and showing up anyway).
Here’s how to do it right:
- Be specific. Talk to ONE person in the audience at a time. Never talk to the whole audience. Holding the gaze of one audience member helps you feel more connected – and helps the audience feel more connected to you. Your energy becomes conversational, not presentational.
- Look amicably, but don’t hold anyone’s eye too long. An unblinking stare is… aggressive. (It even makes some dogs attack.)
- I’ve never been a fan of the whole “pretend they’re naked” approach. (Frankly, that’d make it harder to hold eye contact. But hey, that’s just me.) But, if eye contact really trips you up, you can fake it by looking just above your listeners’ heads, especially if you’re on a stage, or standing while your audience sits.
3 – Ditch the Podium
Most places don’t have one of these stupid things, but if you are stuck behind a podium… or table… or a giant flag… or…
(You get the idea)…
Get out from behind it.
The last thing you want are obstacles that prevent you from connecting with your audience. Or something that makes you lean.
Get to where you can see all of your audience – this way, you know that they can all see you.
4 – Use the whole stage…
A common mistake speakers make is becoming trapped in the “speaker’s box”: a small square of space at the center of stage that – like a cage – hems the speaker in.
One of the things I learned as a performer is that center stage is a powerful focal point… until it’s not. It loses its magic after a while. That’s when the diagonals and the corners become magnetic.
Here are some tricks of the trade:
- Move around the stage – or presentation “area” if you’re, you know, in the private function room of your local banquet hall or something.
- Pause at the center and corners, making eye contact when you do.
- Don’t be afraid to zig-zag a bit, or move on diagonals. In other words, don’t leave the speaker’s box only to be trapped in an across-the-stage track, constantly roving back and forth like a carnival game target.
5 – Ignore all of these 🙂
These are all great strategies. I can tell you to look at one person, not gaze too long, use the whole stage…
…and if you take this on like a series of directional tactics you must follow?
Then you’ll look like a bucket o’ crazy at your next talk.
The truth is: these body language strategies will start to happen naturally when you’re present, and after you’ve done a few talks.
Nevertheless, my go-to hack that has always helped with body language is this:
As you’re back stage or before you speak, get quiet.
Take some deep steady breaths.
Feel your heart.
Then, stand in your service.
See this thing you are about to do as total service. You are delivering and GIVING. It is a contribution. The energy of giving removes the stage fright and all the negative thoughts, because it’s no longer about your ego. It’s about your heart. That changes the game.
The most powerful speakers show up fully as their authentic selves. The more you return to who you are, and what you’re about, the more impactful you’ll be in your body language.
Okay, here’s a moment of eye contact… I’m looking at you now! (Gone are my old DVD days!) Did you recognize something here that you do (or don’t do) when you speak? Which one could you apply at your next speaking engagement?