6 Body Language Mistakes You May Be Making and How to Fix Them

Posted on October 16, 2012 in Audience Contact, Public Speaking by Toke Kruse | Tagged: , ,

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A strong presentation is only as strong as the presenter himself.  A good presentation can be easily ruined by an unconfident presenter, or someone who is saying one thing with their mouth, but something entirely else with their body. Though it is heavily debated on how much of communication is based on non verbal cues, it is a commonly held belief that the nonverbal communication is responsible most of the delivered message (See : Mehrabian Myth).

Here is the most common figures about this: communication relies on words up to 7%, on sounds up to 38% and on the visual part up to 55%. One thing we know for sure is that body language is important, and that great live presenters are extremely good at it!

So, you may be wondering how to be sure your body language is good? We gathered a few keys we think may be able to help ensure your body language is conveying the right message with 100% efficiency. Here is a list of common body language mistakes that presenters make, and some alternative gestures that may be better suited to deliver a clear, effective message.

6 Common Mistakes You May Be Making and Their Easy Remedies


1. Rubbing Hands / Hands in Pocket – One of the biggest problems amongst presenters is surely in the movements of the hands. Clasping your hands, rubbing them together, or fidgeting with them shows nervousness, and may give the audience the sense that you are uncomfortable or do not believe in what you’re saying. Putting your hands in your pockets is an unconfident gesture that may imply that you are shy, unsure, or merely interested in what you have to say. Some of your audience members may even find it disrespectful towards them. Think about it, if you don’t look interested in what you are presenting – how can you expect the audience to remain attentive?

Instead – Try keeping your arms to your side, and in an open manner.  Use your hands to convey what your mouth is saying through calculated, concise movement.

2.  Crossing your arms – Crossing your arms may give the impression that you are unimpressed by something, or that something is amiss. It’s a defensive posture that will put a distance between you and your audience.

Instead –  Keep your arms open, and away from your body, almost like you were are thinking about giving a big bear hug.  This open gesture is inviting and warm, it will give a sense of peace and confidence to the audience.

3.  Avoiding Eye Contact – Looking at the clock, looking at your feet, or constantly looking at the screen or your powerpoint will look dismissive and unprofessional

Instead – Try making eye contact with everybody for a brief few seconds when making a point. You can make it short but don’t be too quick, stay sincere when making it.  Quickly nodding your head in assurance will send the message that you are personally interested in that individuals grasping of the knowledge you are presenting.

4.  Posture – Posture is one of the loudest speaking attributes within body language.  If you are slouching your back, have your shoulders droop and neck limp, it will send a weak message that will have your audience questioning your professionalism.

Instead – Stand straight, with shoulders that are not rigid and tight, but firm and confident.  Keep your head high and your legs strong underneath you to deliver your information in a confident manner.

5. Movement– Pacing back and forth and moving your arms and legs quickly will give off a quirky vibe that does not fare well when trying to present convincing information.

Instead – Navigate the room with slow confidence.  It is important to not stay in one place, so moving throughout the the front, or even the entire crowd can send a positive message.

6.  Legs – Being the furthest point from your brain, naturally the legs can be the hardest to control while trying to concentrate on presenting.  Fidgeting with your legs and constantly readjusting your standing position will give the audience the feeling that you’re uncomfortable and restless.

Instead – When standing, stand confidently, but more so, make calculated and controlled movement’s towards audience members.  Make every audience member think that you have practiced these movements before – make them believe you are a seasoned veteran with where you move while presenting.

So what have we learned?  Body language is essential to a good presentation and therefore deserves to be practiced, as you want to look natural. Don’t be too careful, nor to careless.  Try to approach the situation as a friend who is sharing some information, rather than a lecturer who is surrounded by a student body. Try to remember all of these tips next time you present about something – whether it is in a conference room or in your everyday life – and see how your audience reacts to this: you will be surprised !



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