Public Speaking Body Language Loop
In this video, I discuss the public speaking body language loop and how your body language can help you, as well as signal competence to your audience.
Transcript: Hello! So today I would like to talk to you about body language – obviously a huge topic, and there are plenty of things that we can talk about over the time… but let me home in on one particular aspect today.
If you think about your body language when you’re presenting – and maybe you’ve thought about it, maybe you’ve been given feedback on it… maybe you’ve never really thought about it. But
what we do when we want to appear confident is that we need to make sure that we are upright – in Western culture particularly – that we make sure that we give good eye contact.
Hard to do when we’re nervous but we want eye contact, we want to be upright… and my recommendation is also that you want to be feet hip-width apart, equally balanced, your feet strong and grounded and you’re springy. So I’m springy at the moment… now you can’t see my feet, but I’m actually just I’m ready for action… so if you can see me now I’m looking like I’m ready to go. And that’s because I’m on the balls of my feet, the front of my feet, not the back. So if I go onto the back of my feet I’m now leaning backwards slightly and I’m not looking as engaged and as as energetic – that’s quite hard to say!
So I’m looking front of feet, energetic, head up. Because if anyone is feeling low or down or anxious, we tunnel in, we look we look into the middle and we look down, and we tend to slump and our shoulders are in and forwards… and people who don’t want to be in front of a group as a general rule will be conveying that sort of body language without realising it, as I’m doing now. So I’m not I’m not badly in, but I’m a bit in and down. If I suddenly come back and it’s like I haven’t gone military, but I’ve just gone shoulders back a bit, head up; I now feel more confident and I look more confident.
And basically we have when we are communicating with anybody whether it’s one-on-one or whether it’s to a group, we have two channels of communication. And the first one is our words, the things that we say, our content.
And the second channel is the body language – and if these two things are in conflict, which one do you think the audience is going to believe? If our words say one thing but our body does something else, our audience is going to believe our body language, because that is how we are actually wired. In terms of looking at someone and summing them up quickly, it’s far more about that what they’re doing with their body language than it is about their words.
So we have these two channels going on. So what’s really important is that if you can convey -particularly at the beginning of your presentation which is when we are being judged most strongly by our audience and often when we’re also most nervous – so the aspect of being at the start – really important.
So my recommendation if you possibly can – and you probably won’t feel like it if you’re nervous – is to really stand tall and see if you can own that space. So springy, grounded, standing tall, shoulders back, bit of eye contact going on.
Now if you do this, what happens is that it comes into a loop. So we have you and then we have the audience; and the audience looks at you being confident and they go “that speaker is confident”. They then mirror that back to you and you go “oh okay, I must be doing alright” and then it becomes this self-reinforcing loop where you feel more confident because your body is telling you that you’re actually doing okay.
Remember if you’re anxious or depressed or down or low in any way your body will reflect that. So as soon as you do this, the research shows us that we actually come across much more confidently to others and we feel more confident in ourselves. So as soon as you put your head up and a smile helps too if you possibly can! That is going to make you feel more confident.
Then the audience is reassured “oh yeah, that speaker knows what they’re doing, they have a confident body language”. And then they loop that back to you and the whole thing goes in this positive loop which is exactly what we’re after.
So while you may not – in fact you won’t – be able to maintain body language for any length of time, especially if you’re not used to doing it… it is something that builds over a period of time.
The most important part to begin with is the beginning of your presentation when you’re you’re trying to make that first impression; and then over time you’ll find that if you do it at the start you’ll be able to increase the length of time that you’re managing to make it work for you.
So don’t worry if you go “well I can’t possibly hold positive body language for 15 minutes or 20 minutes or half an hour!” No of course you can’t, and no one’s asking you to; because you’ll go back, there are so many signals within our body that you’ll go back to your normal state.
But the key with all of these things is to have these small incremental shifts. And if you can make the shift and start out looking like “ta da, here I am, I’ve got this physically” then that will start to build and process through your system over time.
And after a while you’ll find that you can maintain it for the whole presentation, no matter how long it is. So something to think about – how are you going to work with your body language?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tip on the public speaking body language loop. I talk about body language and energy in this post on how to get into a strong, energetic state before you present. If you have, please do subscribe to my YouTube channel… and best wishes with your public speaking.