When You Present, Be Aware of Your Non-Verbal Communication

When you are presenting, it is important to be aware of your non-verbal communication.  When you say one thing and your non-verbals or body language says something else, the audience gets confused and tends to believe the non-verbals.

For example, if you say to an audience, “Welcome to my presentation. I’m so excited that you are here – this is going to be exciting” but you don’t make eye contact, your hands are shaking, you have a weak and very soft voice, what will the audience believe?  They may believe that you are anxious, unhappy to be there and boring - even though your words say otherwise. 

Here are the elements of non-verbal communication that you need to be aware of when presenting:                   

Make Eye Contact With the Audience

Looking people in the eye means that you are comfortable with the material and that you are actually trying to connect with them.  Make eye contact with different people in the audience in a kind of random pattern.  Hold the eye contact for about three to five seconds, which is about the time it takes you to complete a thought.

And if you’re presenting virtually, make eye contact with your audience by looking directly into the camera.    

Energize and Vary Your Voice

Speak loudly, slowly and clearly enough to be heard and understood easily by your audience.  Keep your voice energized by breathing fully.  Avoid speaking in a monotone.  Vary your pitch, volume and speed to communicate the meaning of your words and to keep the audience engaged.  And use pauses to allow your audience to absorb what you’ve just said and to give yourself time to think of what you’re saying next (rather than filling the silence with “um” or “ah”).

Use Natural Gestures

Use gestures to illustrate what you are saying.  For example, you can use your gestures for location. You can say, “We have clients from Asia and Europe,” and use your hands to show those locations.  When not gesturing, your hands should be hanging loosely at your side.

Move With Purpose

Your default position should be to stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart, weight evenly distributed on both feet, knees relaxed.  Then if you need to move closer to the audience to emphasize a point or you want to move to a different part of the room or to the flipchart, move with purpose.  Avoid nervous pacing. 

If you are presenting virtually, sit up or stand up straight and avoid moving so much that it becomes distracting or pulls you out of range of the camera.

Don’t Forget Your Facial Expressions

Be aware of your facial expressions and make sure they match what you are saying. Smile when appropriate since it can relax you and reassure the audience.

When you are preparing for a presentation, it’s important to be conscious of your non-verbal communication or body language.  Practice until your non-verbals are natural and complement your presentation rather than distracting from it.

(C) Gilda Bonanno LLC