I don’t know for you but as far as I can remember, I have always been shy. Since I am a kid, I’ve never been comfortable to speak in front of a group of people I don’t know. I remember back in school, as soon as teachers asked me to speak in front of the classroom, I instantly flushed (turning literally 100% red), completely embarrassed. I hated having to walk in front of everyone, I hated feeling everyone staring at me. Moreover, I never knew what to do with my arms and my body while speaking. Looking back now, I am pretty sure I looked like a penguin and I am also pretty sure that everyone will agree saying that a “penguin” is not convincing at all.
Being a grown-up now, and also a project leader, I am aware, obviously like you, how important it is to be convincing when presenting a project in front of an audience.
Our gestures and movements are natural when we are alone but, for most of us, as soon as we are in front of a group, our natural gesturing disappears. It is apparently a symptom of nervousness.
That being said, discover in this article few tips that I apply to be more charismatic and persuasive when I present a project in front of people.
Don’t underestimate the importance of gesture in a presentation : Your body speaks too.
For those of you who doesn’t know yet: 55% of the meaning of a presentation comes from facial expressions and gestures, 38% from tone of voice and only 7% from words.
This means it is useless to put too many expectations on our Powerpoint slides and our speech. We won’t convince our audience only with our content.
Every gesture can be divided in three distinct parts:
- The Preparation – Our body begins to move in anticipation.
- The Stroke – The gesture itself.
- The Return – This brings our body back to a balanced posture.
The flow of a gesture (those 3 parts) must be smoothly executed so that only the stroke is evident to our audience.
Body Self Awareness : Gestures are natural
The most common mistake made by us, uncomfortable speakers, is generally to think and to focus too much about our bodies and gestures.
People affected by shyness, like me, are aware that everyone is looking at them and this feeling locks instantly their body. Either, the stress makes us act weirdly, we move too fast with expensive gesture, either we do not move at all. In both cases, the audience will feel that we are uncomfortable and their interest in the core subject of the presentation will automatically be decreasing.
When we speak, we should be totally involved in communicating and not thinking about our hands. Our gestures should be motivated only by the content of our presentation, nothing else.
I know it is easy to say, I suffered from this problem for years. What I did to overcome my fear of speaking in public and to stop acting weirdly is training. Every time I have a public presentation to attend, I repeat in front of a mirror. This method, which can seem stupid, allows me to improve my gestures and facial expressions. I can better understand and analyse how my body reacts, what my limits are, which gestures are incomprehensible and which add impact to words.
Try to respond naturally to what you think, feel, and see. It’s completely natural for you to gesture, try to not think too much about your body. Of course, in front of a mirror, everything is easier but training will definitely help you become a better speaker over time.
Be and feel passionate about your subject
“It’s only natural to use our hands when we want to make a point that we’re passionate about.“
Be passionate about what you are trying to tell. Otherwise, people will feel it, they will feel that we do not truly believe in it.
When we’re passionate, we make those around us feel excited and enthusiastic with us. You will see, it will be a lot easier to convince people either coworkers, chiefs, teams if they feel your passion.
Interact with your audience, it will wake them up (at least)..
An easy thing to do to feel more persuasive is to ask questions to your audience. Try to isolate, in your presentation, the parts that can be particularly difficult to follow by your audience. To avoid losing people’s attention in those strategical parts of your pitch, interact with them asking questions.
Questions will instantly wake them up and force them to listen to you.
Figure out, prior to your presentation, some questions that you could ask with a “yes or no” answer format. Ask them to put their hands up if the answer is “yes” for example.
- “How many people in the room are concerned about….?”
- “Who, among you, has ever heard of…?”
Moreover, this kind of interaction will give you more confidence, as you will see that people are obeying to your orders. It will help you to relax, to feel stronger. You will get control and power.
The importance of smiling and facial expressions
If you are still uncomfortable moving gently and smoothly in front of others, you can still try to make a good impression showcasing your positive and pleasant “you”.
Try to smile regularly, not while speaking (it can be hard and look weird) but rather at the end of some sentences during a short pause. This tip can seem obvious, but trust me, it is not easy at all to smile on demand, especially when we are stressed. And when I say “smile”, I mean a “show your teeths” smile, a real big smile, not some small lips movements that nobody will see.
People will feel better if the speaker feels warm and sympathetic. They will trust even more what you are saying if they have the feeling you are a positive and trustable person.
Your tone of voice
Don’t hesitate to speak loudly. If you don’t speak enough loudly, you will look intimated and therefore everything but charismatic. Be loud, be present..
You are going to say, that’s obvious, everybody knows that. Well, honestly, each time I watch presentations, one person over three or two, is completely inaudible.
To be sure you are loud enough, once again, try to present in front of someone, just for training purpose. Stand up, talk and ask advices to your colleagues or friends in front of you. It is priceless.
To conclude, get used to standing with your arms relaxed and by your sides. You will automatically bring them up when you make gestures or comments. Just remember to rest them down from time to time and you will look relaxed and develop a strong, positive posture.
Once again, keep in mind that it takes time are practice to overcome your fear and improve your skills.
Don’t hesitate to comment if you have other tips, I still try to improve my body language.