In the business world, many of our presentations are done in teams. During such a presentation, the audience’s eyes will fall upon everyone involved, not just the person speaking.
Remember this: even when it’s not your turn to speak, you’re on. Therefore, any signs of disinterest or boredom by a team member will be easily noticed.
Even innocent movements can send messages that you may not wish to send. Remember President George H.W. Bush checking his watch during the 1992 Presidential debate? That single act fueled a narrative about his supposed aloofness and disinterest.
3 Group Presentation Tips
Here’s what to do:
(1) If your presentation is longer than five minutes, have everyone on your team sit. Being seated will help guard again fidgeting. Sitting behind an appropriate table can help cover up nervous legs. Predetermine if team members will stand or remain seated when it’s their turn to speak.
(2) Give your full and polite attention to the other speakers on your team. Take notes to keep you actively listening. Avoid negative body language, such as rolling eyes, crossed arms, or disdainful facial expression).
(3) Project an attitude of interest toward audience members. Make eye contact with audience members and smile when appropriate.
Sometimes, you need every advantage you can get. Following these simple tips will help ensure a smooth and more polished team presentation. Good luck!
I attended a wedding awhile back and snapped this photo of the groomsmen. The wedding was deep in the heart of Texas so, of course, it was held in a barn and the groomsmen were wearing matching western shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. It was a fabulous wedding, the people were sure ’nuff friendly and I loved every minute of my visit to the Lone Star State.
The groomsmen stood like guys stand when they become conscious of their bodies and don’t know what to do with their hands. It’s a common problem I see with my public speaking clients every day. Each groomsman represented one of the ways I teach speakers not to stand when making a speech or business presentation — the military at ease position, the hands in the pockets, the fig leaf, and the hands the belt loop. The groomsmen were standing respectfully and they were just fine for the wedding ceremony but the problem with all these positions when you are speaking is that they inhibit your ability to gesture, which is key to being an effective presenter.
What Should You Do?
So, what should you do? How should you stand when speaking? And what the heck should you do with your hands?
What you should do is be yourself — yourself when you’re not nervous or overly self-conscience of your body. I’m going to bet that you don’t stand in any of these unnatural positions when you’re talking to your friends in the parking lot or at the water cooler. And, I’ll bet that you’re not at all concerned about what to do with your hands either.
Your Public Speaking Goal
The goal is this: to gesture naturally as you talk, the way you do when you’re telling a story or a good joke to your friends. So how do you get there? After all, you are nervous! Start by putting your hands at your sides. Then, and this is key, relax your arms from the shoulders down. Once your arms are under control, the nervous energy will travel to your legs and feet so your next step is to plant your feet solidly on the ground. Imagine that your feet are nailed to the floor. With your arms relaxed and your feet planted solidly. You’re now ready to begin speaking.
It will feel awkward at first. Most things do when you start. Remember the first time you shot a layup, tried to rollerskate, swung a golf club or went bowling? It was awkward, right? But through practice, it became second nature. The good news with gesturing is, you already know how to do it. You just need to relax. Following the steps outlined here, you gradually will forget about your body and begin to gesture naturally. I’ve seen some folks stand awkward with their hands at their sides for 45 seconds before they finally forget about their stance and began to gesture naturally. But eventually, they did. And the next time it only took 20 seconds, and the next time 10 seconds, and finally, after enough practice, they just did it from the get-go. They became themselves.
All Hat and No Cattle?
Public speaking isn’t about making you into someone you’re not — or as they say in Texas, someone who is all hat and no cattle. Effective public speaking is about making you more comfortable being yourself. Trust me, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. So go ahead, stand up straight, relax those arms, plant those feet. And before you know it, you will be gesturing as natural and as wide as the horns on a Texas Longhorn.
Body language is crucial to effective public speaking. It communicates more than our words. Some experts say as much as 80% of what we communicate is done through our body language. So, it’s important that we are using our body language to communicate what we are intending to say.
When you are making a business presentation, is your body language sending signals of “command and control” or are you trying to “influence and include?” You will have more success at persuading audiences to your way of thinking if you adopt a strategy of influence and include.
In this video clip from our “Speak Up and Stand Out” workshop, Paul Barton presents some tips on using body language to help you be more a more inclusive public speaker and presenter.
By using your body language to say what we are intending to say, you can become a more powerful communicator.
What happens if you get nervous or slip up in the middle of your speech? In previous posts, we’ve presented tips to help calm nerves before you begin speaking, but what about while you are speaking.
Here are some tips to help deal with public speaking fear while speaking:
As you begin to speak, look for friendly faces in the audience first. Feed off their positive energy.
Remember: You mind affects your body language, but the opposite is true as well — your body language affects how you feel. Plant your feet and stand confidently. Hold your head up. You will begin to act more confidently.
Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, and don’t say you’re nervous.
Be authentic; not perfect. Audiences are very forgiving of sincere speakers.
Laugh off mistakes, regain your footing and continue.
If you forget something, just move on. You’re probably the only one who knows you forgot.
Don’t forget to breathe, and do so from the diaphragm.
Be yourself and have fun!
By being your authentic self, your presentation will gain the most important element of a speech — credibility.
I visited a call center once that was operated by the airline I was working for at the time. I noticed that each of the workstations had a mirror mounted near the telephone. As each call center representative prepared to answer an incoming call, they would look briefly into the mirror and smile.
Why do you suppose they did that? That’s right — because it influenced how they felt as they answered the phone and that translated into a more friendly tone for the customer listening on the other end. Their body language was able to trick their own brains. As a result, they were able to offer a better experience for their customers.
We all know that our feelings can influence our body language, but we don’t always recognize that the opposite is equally true – our body language can influences how we feel.
Implications for Public Speaking
So why is this important for a presenter or speaker to know? This is why: If you stand confidently when making a presentation or speech, you will begin to feel more confident. And as your confidence rises, so will your credibility in the eyes of your audience. They audience will react positively to your confidence and that will cause you to become even more energized and even more confident. The effect will begin to snowball.
Make Body Language a Habit
This is the strategy behind social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s “fake it until you make it until you become it.” Or, yet another way we can look at this idea is as the famous Greek philosopher and teacher Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I’m sure Aristotle would agree that confident speaking also can become a habit.
By standing straight, planting our feet shoulders width apart, making appropriate eye contact, smiling, and getting our hands free and our shoulders relaxed so that we can gesture naturally, we can project an air of confidence on the outside and begin to feel more confident on the inside.
Think of it as a Jedi mind trick — on yourself! So, take a look in the mirror and smile — you got this! And may the Force be with you!