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Friday, April 3, 2009

Your Body Language During Giving Presentation

Many people are nervous when asked to give a presentation – that is perfectly natural. Your mouth dries up, your hands perspire. The adrenalin rushes in your veins and your heart goes into overdrive. Your contracting stomach robs you of hunger (though afterwards you’ll be ravenous), your legs tremble and your voice becomes strained. When we are faced with what we believe is a hostile or difficult situation we experience the Flight or Fight syndrome. Your body will prepare itself to either fight the situation or run away from it. Your body can take control but you mustn’t allow it too completely. You don’t want to eliminate nervousness because you need a certain amount to help you give a better performance – some great actors still suffer terrible stage fright before they perform – so being nervous is natural. It is controlling these nerves that is important.

American researchers asked 3,000 people what they feared most – 40 per cent gave speaking before a large audience as the affliction they most dreaded.

One of the greatest fears that people have is that all eyes are on them when they stand to resent. So instead of thinking about all those people looking at you, you need to reverse it – you must think of yourself as giving out to those people. You must feel (and tell yourself) that it is you who is in control. Also be aware that potentially the audience is more nervous than you are! They want you to be good. They want you to succeed.

Overcoming nervousness

To help overcome nervousness, especially right at the beginning when it is worse, the trick is to divert eyes from you.

Two ways of doing this are:
  • Put up a visual and ask people to look at it. That way you can chat quite happily about what is on the chart without people looking at you
  • Start with a question to the audience, for example, if your talk is about the increase in violence you could ask, ‘How many of you here today are worried about violence in the community?’ Hands go up. Then, ‘The gentleman in the blue jacket, what particularly worries you?’ All eyes are now on him. You can carry on this technique by asking another person in the audience for their opinion.
Use questions and flip charts to get involvement and draw attention away from you.

When your speech begins stand slowly, keep your hand movements slow and deliberate. Smile. Keep smiling. Let your eyes rove the audience. Don’t hurry. Come out to the front, smile, open your arms in a welcome gesture.

As you start to speak look at everybody in the room. With small groups acknowledge each one with eye contact. With larger groups you’ll have spots where you should rest your eyes for a moment and then sweep on to the next. These spots should be dotted around the auditorium. If you don’t make eye contact with the back of the hall it is unlikely that your voice will reach the back row either.

Do not be tempted into giving your talk to the only friendly face and ignore the rest. You need to make good steady eye contact with those who look bored and cynical. This takes courage but it works. Someone who appears downright awkward and resistant in an audience can be looking like this because they feel superior to everyone else and/or because the subject is threatening. By making extra eye contact with them they start to feel that you are acknowledging their significance and they feel less threatened because they trust you.

Don’t hide behind a lectern or table. It will create a barrier. Equally don’t talk to the wall or the flip chart or walk up and down, sway, or keep rising on your toes.

With a large audience the personal space zone is about twelve feet, drawing inwards with smaller audiences.

Watch out for those mannerisms like scratching, rubbing your nose, pulling ears, turning over your loose change in your pockets and fastening and unfastening your jacket.

Always stand rather than sit. Your energy level is different when you stand and you look more powerful. If you are giving a long talk or a training session always stand at the outset to establish authority. When you want to gain confidence and be more like one of the audience then you can sit, i.e. during question and answer sessions.

Don’t stand with your hands folded in front of the body in the vicar/fig leaf position or clasped behind your back like a policeman! In the drawing opposite our man has his legs firmly planted apart and a smile on his face with head tilted back, this tends to make him look superior.