How to improve your body language for better presenting
As the adage goes "You never get a second chance to make a first impression", but how can you improve your first impression? You can dress to impress, but if your body language isn't up to scratch then you may be left in the cold. Many people don't realise how much body language can play a role in communication, after all, most people are fluent readers of body language.
So how can you keep your body language in check when communicating to others?
Arrive ahead of time and make sure you have everything that you need before you begin, this is especially true if you're presenting. Everyone has seen a presentation that hasn't gone smoothly because of technical issues or nervousness from the presenter. So make sure everything works before you begin, and it's all set up how you want it to run. Once you know that everything is working, you're going to feel as though nothing can stop you, which can help to get you in the right mindset for the rest of the presentation. But before you begin, take a few moments to center yourself, try and relax as much as possible so you don't show your nerves through your body movement.
When you're presenting, pitching or selling an idea, if you're not looking confident, how can the audience be? Your body language should be showing that you're confident in what you're saying; if you slouch, it looks like you're trying to hide away from the audience. But also, don't stand to attention that's a bit too confident. Try to stand with your feet at shoulder width apart and your back straight. This means that you can move around while still standing tall.
It's normal to gesticulate (move your hands) when talking, in fact, imagine how boring life would be if no one did it. Take a weather presenter stood with their arms by their sides rather than pointing to the map. But try to keep it reasonable. If you over-animate yourself you can seem like too much of a live-wire and it makes you less believable. Also try not to fiddle with things such as speaking notes or the microphone, or even a pen. It makes you seem nervous, and if you're gesticulating you can lose your grip and end up throwing the item at the audience.
Try not to be aggressive and dominating with this. Just have control over where you are and don't try to shrink away. Again, stand up straight and stay relaxed. If you're presenting, then feel free to move around the stage, but do it deliberately and with the flow of what you're doing. If you're being too tentative with your movements it can come across as indecisive.
Try to smile naturally, if you force it you can come across as rather odd. But try to smile to build rapport with your audience, if you appear friendly they're more likely to come back to you with more questions or to buy what you're selling.
This can feel a little tricky if you're presenting to a room full of people, but try to make contact with everyone while you're talking. Try not to single anyone out for extended eye contact though, it can make them feel a little nervous. This is about establishing a small connection with the audience, it can make them feel engaged and involved with the presentation.
What Makes You Tic?
Everyone has a sign that they're nervous, it could be nail biting, fiddling, tapping your fingers, or something completely different. Being aware of these tics and how they come across to an audience can help bring insight to your presentation skills. You might have the best pitch in the world, be stood tall while delivering it, but non-stop drumming your fingers on your leg can show that you're nervous about talking through your idea. This can mean your audience can also see that you're nervous. So try to find your tic and then work on ways to overcome it, just don't substitute it for a different one.
Some other things not to do
Don't follow the old saying of "Picture your audience naked", it's distracting you from what you're meant to be doing (good luck keeping a straight face).
Try not to invade personal space if you're having a one-on-one conversation with someone. Over familiarity can feel strange for the person you're talking to.
Try not to be overbearing, this can alienate your audience.
There have been some useful tips presented here, but also some things you should avoid doing. One thing you could do, is film yourself presenting to an audience and compare it to other well-known presenters to see how your stance and tics are different to theirs.