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: