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THE BODY LANGUAGE RUlES: 12 Ways to be a More Powerful Speaker


Successful speaking is about power used benevolently. Good speakers dont need to manipulate audiences. At the same time, they realize that they must exert control at every turn: over the material, the passage of time, an audiences response, and over their own body. The nature of the audience, the speaking situation, your purpose . . . even the emotional context of an event matter greatly. Yet you mustalso control that most critical of public speaking components: your body language. How do you accomplish that task? Below is what I call The Body Language Rules. The Rules consist of 12 powerful ways you can use nonverbal communication to be a more credible and dynamic speaker in the minds of your audience: 1. Always Stand if You Can. Your body is such an important communication tool that its a shame to deprive your audience of 50% of it. Yet thats what happens when you choose to sit to deliver a presentation (where you have a choice). Your position in a room and your full-body movements are part of your speaking power. Give your audience all of you! 2. Ground Yourself. Grounding means to assume a strong stance, with your feet at armpit-width and your weight evenly distributed. Setting yourself like this gives you the appearance of stability. You will appear steadfastand your audience will see your ideas that way, too. 3. Keep Your Arms in Neutral. Self-consciousness in speaking means youre apt to do everything with your arms except what theyre meant to do: hang at your sides. Thats the neutral position you should start with. From there, you can bring your arms up to make gestures naturally. Keeping them above the waist at all times only calls attention to them. 4. Use Open Body Positions. Crossing your arms or locking your hands in any way creates a barrier between you and your listeners. Instead, keep your upper body open, so theres literally nothing between you and the audience. Influence and rapport will flow freely in both directions.

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5. If Youre Sitting, Sit Straight and Slightly Forward. Lets say you have to sit to deliver your talk, as some situations require. Bring your backside one-third of the way forward on the seat, and lean in slightly with your upper body. Youll look professional, engaged, and interested. Lean back or slouch and youll be comfortable but much less effective. 6. Make Your Gestures Spare and Clean. Dont worry about using your hands too much just use them effectively. Gestures are there to be used when you really need to emphasize something. If you make each gesture strong and clean in the sense of well defined, it will possess its own power and amplify your message. 7. Move with Purpose. Some speakers wander like a cloud; others pace annoyingly. For your part, you should move with purpose. Take a couple of steps just before you start a new talking point. Approach a questioner; or go to the screen to point out something. Visuals like this help an audiences interest and retention of what youre saying. 8. Love Your Audience More than Your Manuscript. Speeches arent occasions for audiences to be read to. They are performances where you share what you know with people interested in hearing it. The exact words you say dont matter in the least; opening up a communication channel does. Look at the people you want to influence as much as you can! Glance down for the next talking point, but no more. 9. Love Your Audience More than the PowerPoint Screen. Why? Well, for one thing, the screen wont love you back. Pay more attention to those youre trying to persuade than to the data that helps you do so. If you have to look at the screen to remind yourself of what comes next, youre not ready to take this act on the road. 10. Move Away from the Podium . . . and Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them. All right, Im having fun here. But the podium or lectern is a physical barrier between you and everyone else. Dont hang on it, or even rest both hands thereyou need your hands to gesture. Best of all is to step to the side and speak. You can always go back to see your next talking point, then come away again. 11. Welcome Questioners. If youre lucky enough to have people question or challenge you, you should make them feel welcome. Avoid pointing a finger aggressively in the questioners direction; use an open palm gesture instead. Its a subtle yet effective way to keep an audience on your side. 12. Dont Hold a Writing Instrument Unless Youre Prepared to Use It. Ever notice how many speakers hold a marker while presenting near a whiteboard or flip chart that they never actually write on? A variation is the speaker whos been taking notes up to the last minute and forgets that the pen is still in his or her hand. The audience waits in vain for the instrument to be used! The language of nonverbal communication is often as important as the verbal content of your speech or presentation. Learn to use it to your advantage. Remember: a body is a terrible thing to waste.
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