Create connections with movement

The human body contains more than 700 muscles, but many speakers ignore every muscle except the ones in their arms and fingers—which are busy grasping onto the speaker’s lectern, laser pointer or note cards.

Remember: Your success as a speaker depends not only on the words you say but also on the way your body language backs up your points. Because audience members are watching you so closely, in a way, your body language speaks “louder” than your words. Use these tips to make certain that your appearance, posture and gestures send the right message:

  • Start with eye contact. Do more than pass your gaze throughout the room; focus on individual audience members and create bonds by looking each person directly in the eye for 5-10 seconds.
  • Smile. Nothing else you can do will make you seem more confident and friendly than a warm and sincere smile.
  • Tie in to the action of your message. No rule requires you to stand statically and use only your arms and hands. If you are using metaphor, like suggesting that the challenges you face are like running a marathon, jog a few steps.
  • Stay true to your instincts. Others may suggest that you incorporate a specific gesture, or you may want to emulate a speaker you admire. If you copy someone else’s gesture, you may not seem natural while you do it.

— Adapted from “Gestures: Get Moving,” Toastmasters International, www.toastmasters.org.

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