Brilliant body language for public speaking

The Speaker's Coach Graham Shaw discusses how teachers can help children to speak with confidence, through effective public speaking skills…

When speaking to a group, a few aspects of body language can make all the difference. Body language matters! How you stand and move has a major impact on how the audience perceives you. It also affects your confidence and thereby your performance.

Four top tips for public speaking:

1. Stand confidently The Speaker's Coach Graham Shaw, expert on public speaking

When you move around for no reason, it makes it harder for people to listen. Shifting around or swaying can reduce your credibility. Instead, stand upright with feet hip-width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. Stay still unless you have reason to move. This assertive stance enhances your credibility and boosts your confidence too. 

2. Use gestures

Using gestures to explain ideas it makes it easier for people to understand what you mean. Research also shows that when we use gestures, we find it easier to think of what to say. Allow gestures to occur naturally as you would in normal conversation. However, beware of keeping upper arms ‘glued’ your sides, or making tiny gestures. Instead, hold arms out wide and see the width of the ‘canvas’ on which you can ‘paint pictures’ to accompany your words.

3. Make eye contact

When you make eye contact people feel a personal connection which builds rapport. People feel special because it seems like you are speaking just to them.

Don’t:

• Sweep from side to side like the beam of a lighthouse.public speaking cartoon – After 30 minutes and no sign of his hands, the team thought Mike might be hiding something from them.

• Flit about with glances.

• Hold your gaze too long on one person.

Do:

• Make eye contact randomly as this will look natural.

• Include everyone if the audience is small enough to do so. If you miss people, they can feel ignored.

• Hold eye contact with each person for as long as it feels instinctively right.

• If the group is too large to look at everyone individually, mentally divide the audience into smaller groups. Look at one person in a group and everyone in that group will feel as if you are looking at them. Move around groups to cover the entire audience. You will still need to look individually at people close to you.

4. Make it fun

Create enjoyable exercises to practice the skills. Give the children feedback to polish their performance. As a result, you will help them develop public speaking skills they can use throughout their lives.

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