The fifth project in the Competent Communicator Manual focuses on body language.
What exactly is body language? In general, it’s the non-verbal messages from a speaker to the audience, including deliberate gestures and facial movements, and involuntary and spontaneous actions.
Studies have shown that body language has great credibility with the audience than the words of the speaker’s message and sometimes, even more than the speaker’s facial expressions. That’s why it’s crucial to develop good effective stage presence with you
- stage space
- body and hands
to strengthen the impact of your message with your audience.
Is It a Lectern or a Podium?
Let’s get the terminology silliness out of the way. You step up onto a podium. A lectern is where you would place your notes, or worse, lean on during your speech. Let’s just call it the stage where you’ll give your speech. This area may be very small – just the space behind the lectern if you’re speaking as a keynote at a formal affair. In a more informal event, you may have a larger stage where you have more freedom to move.
Using as much of the stage as you can gives you more contact with your audience. It extends your presence, moves you closer to them to make more intimate eye contact and perhaps physical contact. When you’re comfortable doing so, move out from behind the lectern.
This will mean leaving notes behind.
Are you ready for that yet? Try it! You’ll discover that you’re far better than you think you are and that however much you fear going without notes, the freedom from the lectern gives you a new relationship with your audience.
Body Language: Gestures
You’ll see a lot of people start with their hands clasped in front, varying from low to high. Why shouldn’t you do this?
It pulls your shoulders forward and reduces your lung capacity just enough that you can’t take that big first breath. Shoulders back. Chest up and full. You can’t do it well if you’ve got your hands clasped in front of you. The other reason is that position looks worried or anxious. Unless you want to convey that emotion as part of your introduction, you probably want to start out as assured and confident. Hands comfortably hanging at your sides show that.
Politicians use the classic flat palm, extended locked fingers gesture instead of pointing a finger, which could look like they’re accusing someone or calling someone out. It’s a classic, if boring, gesture. There are plenty of other gestures out there that a speaker can use. A good evaluator can help you determine which ones work for you. You can also watch other speakers and what they use that you might want to put into your speeches in the future.
Body Language: Facial Features
Smile genuinely. Don’t fake it. But you can learn how to smile honestly while you speak. Best-selling author Andy Andrews has a blog post that explains the technique to learn to smile and speak. http://www.andyandrews.com/how-to-smile-while-you-talk/
Don’t worry about feeling silly while you practice. Within a short time, you’ll find that you’ll smile and talk naturally. The contrast of your smile and when you change to a passionate gaze will then be stronger and convey powerfully to your audience the intensity of your feelings about your subject. Instead of using words, now your face showing your audience your message.
Don’t worry if you’re not over your stage fright yet. It can take more time and more speeches. One thing that can help is if you start participating in Table Topics. Impromptu speaking will be the one application of Toastmasters that you will use every day of your life. None of us have everything that we say scripted out for us. The odd meeting in the corridor, in the elevator, in the grocery store – we never know when we’ll have the opportunity of the lifetime on a couch instead of on a stage. Table Topics prepares us for those unprepared moments. Have you stepped up as Table Topics Master or Table Topics Leader in your club meeting yet? If you’re struggling with ideas, there are apps available for you to download to your smartphone to help you.
Many clubs also have decks of cards that have questions you can ask. Talk to your club’s sergeant at arms to see if your club has them available.
Thanks to our sponsor Toastmasters District 10.