Creating a great presentation involves more than coming up with a topic or designing the perfect PowerPoint to go with it. While those things are important, there is one more element that you need to pay attention to—your body language.
Because of this, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of body language in presentations and in this guide, we’ll explain what body language is along with different types of body language and share powerful body language tips that you can use for your next presentation.
What Is Body Language?
Body language is the way your body communicates without the use of words. It combines hand gestures, posture, facial expressions, and movements that tell others what’s going on inside your head. Body language can happen consciously and unconsciously.
For example, the way you’re sitting right now paired with your facial expression can tell others a lot about you. Based on your body language, they can tell whether you’re amused or concentrating hard. They can tell whether you’re approachable or if you’re having a bad day.
If you’re in a discussion with someone and verbally agree with them, your body language will either confirm that you indeed agree with what is being said; or betray you and tell others you don’t feel the same way.
In other words, your body language reveals the true story behind your words.
What Is the Importance of Body Language in Effective Presentations?
Using body language in presentations the right way can help you close more sales or win that pitch. Your body language can help you engage your audience and be confident and relaxed during your presentation. When you make eye contact, maintain a confident posture and eye contact, your presentation will be more dynamic, and you'll be able to connect with your audience.
On the contrary, if you don’t pay attention to it, bad body language during a presentation, such as slouching, no eye contact or arms on hips, will make your presentation appear dull and you'll wind up alienating your audience.
10 Quick Tips Body Language Tips For Better Public Speaking
Now that we’ve covered what body language is and why it matters while giving a presentation, here are 10 tips that'll show you how to use body language to improve your presentation.
Believe it or not, a smile is the most powerful tool you've got in your body language toolbox. A UC Berkeley study from 2011 found “that smiling can be as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 Pounds Sterling in cash.” What’s more, a smile can instantly change the perception we have about someone, not to mention it leads people to smile back at us.
Smiling makes you seem more approachable. (Image source: Envato Elements)
While it’s true that smiling can be hard when you’re nervous, but keep in mind that a University of Kansas study found that smiling reduces stress. So, the next time you're up there giving a presentation, don’t forget to smile every so often. Not only will you seem more approachable to your audience, but you'll relieve that stress you’re feeling as well.
2. Don’t Slouch
Slouching makes you appear less confident and like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you're physically able to stand straight, then be sure to do so the next time you’re giving a presentation. Stand tall with your shoulders pulled back and your stomach tucked in—you'll appear more confident and get a quick jolt of energy to boot.
3. Assume a Power Pose
Professional speaker Amy Cuddy shows that a power pose can help you establish authority when you need to come across as confident and authoritative in your presentation. An example of a power pose is standing with your feet a shoulder-width apart, with hands on your hips, and chin lifted up. However, be careful not to overdo it, unless you want to come off as intimidating. Reserve the power poses for crucial parts of your presentation.
4. Make Use of the Space
Notice how the speaker has moved to the side, making use of the available space, rather than standing stiffly behind the podium. (Image source: Envato Elements)
Another quick tip is to make use of the stage. Instead of standing still, move around the stage. By doing so, you'll send a message to your audience that you’re comfortable in your skin and confident about your topic matter. It'll also help you avoid fidgeting.
Step out from behind the podium and let your audience see you. Move from one spot to another by taking a couple of steps, stopping, and then taking a few more steps.
Be natural as you move about though and avoid pacing as this will achieve the opposite effect and make you look nervous, not to mention you'll run out of breath.
5. Don’t Forget Facial Expressions
Facial expressions can do wonders for keeping your audience interested and convincing them to believe in your cause. Your presentation isn't the time nor the place to bring on your poker face as you'll come off as a robot.
By letting your passion for your topic shine through with your facial expressions, your audience will be able to connect with you and trust you. A word of caution though: don’t purposely go overboard with your facial expressions as this will come off as exaggerating and insincere.
You can practice your facial expressions in front of the mirror while you practice your speech. Alternatively, record yourself with a camera and analyze your facial expressions later on.
6. Speak Clearly
It’s not uncommon for the nerves to get the better of you during the presentation and you stutter or mumble, especially if there are tricky words involved. Practicing your speech before the presentation is a good way to make sure you feel comfortable delivering it and that your audience will be able to understand you.
Another tip that'll help you speak clearly and confidently is to imagine you’re delivering your presentation to your friends.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Gesture
If you watch other presenters, you’ll notice one thing in common: all great presenters always use hand gestures to help deliver their presentation. Hand gestures will help you stress what's important as well as express feelings and convictions. Your passion for the topic will become more apparent as our gestures are more lively when we're passionate about something.
Gestures can help you express feelings during a presentation. (Image source: Envato Elements)
Hand gestures will show your audience you care about the presentation topic and that you're an effective communicator so don’t be afraid to use them during a presentation.
8. Maintain Eye Contact
As you give your presentation, be sure to maintain eye contact with your audience and face them. Doing so will make them feel like you’re talking directly to them and will help keep them interested in your presentation.
Avoiding eye contact or turning your back to them, on the other hand, will come off as rude and break the connection with the audience.
9. Remember to Breathe
While you’re on the stage, it can be all too easy to get caught up in your presentation and start to speak fast. But if you speak too fast, your audience will tune out because it'll be hard to follow you and you’ll run out of breath. That’s why it’s important to take a pause and remember to breathe. Breathing properly will also help you with your voice pitch and tone so you don’t sound strained and nervous.
10. Learn From Other Presenters
The last tip is to learn from other great presenters. You can study their body language and see how they use facial expressions, movement, and gestures to help them convey their ideas. A good place to start is to check out various TED Talks.
Different Types of Body Language
By following the previous presentation body language tips, you'll be able to deliver more effective presentations. But if you want to implement those tips successfully, you need to be aware of different body language types.
1. Eye Contact
Eye contact is an important part of body language. (Image source: Envato Elements)
We mentioned earlier how important it is to maintain eye contact with your audience. Eye contact helps you establish a personal connection with your audience. Keep in mind that you don’t have to look each person in the eye as this can prove to be difficult with large audiences.
Instead, focus your eye contact on a few people in different parts of the room will help you establish and maintain that contact. If they look at you, hold their gaze for a few seconds but avoid staring as long eye contact can make people feel uncomfortable.
Eye contact can also help you get a feel for how the audience is receiving your presentation. If you catch them yawning or trying to stifle a yawn or if they're looking around, it’s a sign they're losing interest in the presentation. Eye contact can help bring their attention back and re-engage them with the topic.
2. Head Movements
The way you move your head can signal a lot of different things. For example, when you lower your head, you send signals such as being tired or waiting for the right moment to speak. Looking up at the ceiling or away may signal you’re bored or that you’re hiding something from your audience as you’re avoiding eye contact. Nodding, on the other hand, signals agreeing with someone.
With the right head body language, you can engage your audience and convince them to agree with your idea.
3. Facial Expressions
Facial expressions are another important part of body language. As you can see from the man's expression here, he's clearly happy and excited about something. (Image source: Envato Elements)
Facial expressions help us convey our emotions to others or mask them when we feel uncertain about the person we’re talking to. That’s why using facial expressions during a presentation is crucial.
When it comes to facial expressions, keep in mind that anyone can recognize the 7 universal emotions (as described in research into facial expressions from Dr. Paul Ekman). Given that fear is one of those emotions and also the emotion that can crop up during your presentation, it’s important to conquer your fear instead of letting it get the better of you. Practice your speech and practice giving your presentation in front of a familiar audience first. Once you feel confident about your speech and performance, it’s less likely that fear will show up when the time comes for the official presentation.
4. Hand Gestures
According to a study by Vanessa Van Edwards, lead investigator for Science of People, hand gestures are one of the five key patterns of all successful TED talks. In other words, the more you gesture with your hands, the better the likelihood of your presentation being a stellar success.
Use your hands to communicate different points in your presentation. The most effective way to do this is to use your fingers to count the points you’re explaining.
5. Body Posture
Posture is another important part of body language. It's important not to slouch when you give your presentation. (Image source: Envato Elements)
The way you hold yourself matters. As covered in one of the earlier tips, poor posture such as slouching will give your audience the impression that you’re not confident in your topic or yourself. If your back is tense, they'll sense your tension and wonder what’s causing it.
Remind yourself to relax throughout your presentation and to straighten up if your start to slouch. Not only will this give you the chance to improve your posture, but it'll also allow your audience to take in the points you’ve just covered.
Make Use of Your Body Language to Ace Your Presentation
Delivering a great presentation requires a carefully chosen topic as well as an engaging slide deck and body language that'll help you win over your audience. The topic should be relevant to your audience and help you raise brand awareness as well as generate trust.
Once you’ve nailed down your topic, make sure you've got a well-designed slide deck. You can save a lot of time by using a professionally designed PowerPoint template such as those found on Envato Elements or GraphicRiver so be sure to check them out.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of body language in a professional presentation. Your body language says a lot about you, not to mention it's got the power to help you deliver an engaging presentation. Put your body language to good use by making use of the space, maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly and with confidence, and by standing tall without slouching.