Posture or Stance. How you position your body when you speak communicates its own set of visual messages to the audience. Good speaking posture helps you breathe properly and project your voice effectively. The following constitutes proper speaking stance:
- Stand straight, but not rigid.
- Keep your feet apart, one slightly ahead of the other.
- Balance your weight evenly on the balls of your feet.
- Lean forward just a little.
- Keep your knees straight, but not locked.
- Relax your shoulders, but don’t slouch.
- Keep your chest up and your stomach in.
- Keep your head erect and your chin up.
- Let your arms hang naturally at your sides.
- Curl your fingers slightly.
- Your stance should be alert but not stiff, relaxed but not sloppy.
- Don’t maintain the same position throughout your speech or presentation.
Body Movements. Changing your position or location during a speech can support and reinforce what you say, attract your audience’s attention, and lessen your nervousness and relieve physical tension. Your movement from your seat to the podium or lectern or to face the audience is the first opportunity to use body language. To appear confident and eager:
- Walk purposefully to the front of the room with your head up and shoulders back.
- Turn and face your audience directly, then begin speaking.
- When you’ve finished, return to your seat in the same manner.
Any movement during your speech should be purposeful, and you should:
- Avoid rocking, fidgeting, or swaying from side to side, or bouncing up and down on your toes.
- Deliver part of your speech from one spot, then move laterally or crosswise to imply transition.
- Step forward or toward the audience to emphasize an important point.
- Step backward to indicate you’ve concluded an idea, letting the audience relax and digest what you’ve said.
- Use movement to dramatize a specific point.
- Lead with the foot nearest your destination when changing position.
Gestures. Although gestures may be made with the head, shoulders, or even the legs and feet, most are made with the hands and arms. To be effective, gestures should be made above your elbow and away from your body. Some basic gestures show size, weight, shape, direction, and location, importance or urgency, and comparison and contrast. Gestures can be categorized as descriptive, emphatic, suggestive, and prompting. To use gestures effectively:
- Respond naturally to what you think, feel, and say.
- Create the conditions for gesturing—not the gesture.
- Suit the action to the word and the occasion.
- Make your actions convincing, smooth, and well-timed.
Facial Expressions. When you speak, your face unwittingly conveys cues about how your listeners are supposed to react or feel. Your eyes, eye movement, eyebrows, and mouth play vital roles in showing your attitudes and emotions to the audience. Avoid unconscious or random expressions like licking or biting the lips, tightening the jaw, raising the corners of the mouth, and twitching any part of the face.
- Smile broadly to show friendliness or happiness.
- Show sadness by lowering your eyelids, turning down your mouth slightly, and bowing your head.
- Express surprise or disbelief by widening your eyes and raising your eyebrows.
Eye Contact. After your voice, your eyes are your most powerful tool for communicating. To use your eyes effectively when speaking:
- Know your material.
- Establish a bond with your listeners.
- Monitor visual feedback from your audience.
First Impressions. When you present a speech, you’ll be judged by the audience based on the initial impression that you make on them. Your physical appearance, attire, and grooming influences how others judge you.
- Be at least as well-dressed as the best-dressed person in the audience.
- Don’t wear jewelry that glitters or jingles when you move.
Nervousness. Being nervous before a speech is healthy because it shows you care about doing well. Fear in public speaking works on three levels – mental or psychological, emotional, and physical. To overcome your stage fright:
- Thoroughly prepare and know your subject.
- Visualize a successful presentation.
- Relax before people arrive—exercise.
- Know the audience and the room.
- Gain experience.
To overcome the symptoms of nervousness while speaking, the following are the tips:
- Nerves. Arrive early and get familiar with the room in which you will be presenting, as well as the podium or lectern, microphone, audio-visual equipment if any, and seating arrangement. Shake hands and chat with people before the program or speech begins, for familiarity breeds comfort. Try to exercise before you speak: go off to an empty room and swing your arms quickly, do a few jumping jacks, run in place, stretch, or close eyes and take several deep slow breaths.
- Trembling Hands. Use small index cards but do not hold them. Instead, place them on the lectern or table and slide each card to one side after it has been used. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you find yourself trembling, thinking negatively, or getting lost in speech.
- Tongue-Twisted Speech. Slow down and pause between words and sentences. Remind yourself that no one in the audience has an appointed to catch.
- Shortness of Breath. Breathe from diaphragm (stomach) and through your nose. Do not breathe through the mouth.
- Fear of Audience. Look right above their heads. Later, seek out friendly faces and eye-connect with them during the talk, or make eye contact with empty chairs. If need be, bring some friends you can use as focal points.
- Serious Sweating. Ignore it. Not one will know unless a pool forms on the floor beside you—and that will not happen.
- Cold Hands. Rub your hands together under the lectern.
- Squeaky Voice. If you squeak during a speech, pause, take a breath, and try to bring your voice down, then continue.
- Dry Mouth. Speak slowly. Wear a light coating of petroleum jelly/lip gloss on your lips. If you must, put a glass of water without ice on the lectern, pause, and sip from it. Keep this to a minimum though— no guzzling.
- Tense Muscles. Vary your body language and movement.
- Upset Stomach. Try to ignore it and it will probably go away. Eat and drink properly before your presentation, but stay away from heavy meals and caffeine/coffee.
- Desire to Back Out. Resist it. The best defense is a great offense. Have a super speech prepared and be sure to practice it a lot.
- Foolish Feeling. Dress well. If you look the best, you will feel your best.