Top tips for presentation body language

Body language accounts for a large percentage of our communication. All of our physical gestures are subconsciously interpreted by those we are communicating with. Naturally, this can work for or against us depending on the type of body language we use.

No matter how pretty a set of slides is or how informative the content, if the speaker is stiff and awkward the audience will feel uncomfortable too. But how can you appear confident and assertive when you are really a bag of nerves inside?

4 top presentation tips - illustration


1. Eye contact. Make eye contact with your audience to help ensure you have their attention. When you make a connection with someone they are naturally more likely to listen to you. Carry on making eye contact with various members of your audience throughout your presentation so they feel that you are talking to them, not just reciting a speech. (Don’t worry about holding eye contact for a certain amount of time – relax and keep it natural).
>> For a virtual presentation: look at the camera lens as much as you can. Try not to let your eyes wander.

2. Posture. Good posture and positioning is an important factor when trying to appear confident. Slouching, fidgeting or leaning on a lectern or desk do not give a good impression. Stand up straight, chest up, balanced on both feet. Position yourself so that you are not obstructing the screen nor hiding behind a lectern.
>> For a virtual presentation: Try a standing desk! You’ll be bigger, feel more in control, feel more confident and body language will come more naturally.

3. Movement. Don’t be afraid to move around the room. As we just mentioned, fidgeting doesn’t give a very good impression, but the presenter being rooted to the spot can become boring. If you have a large audience it’s a good idea to move slowly around the room as you talk, so that everyone in the audience can see and hear you. Moving forwards can be used to add emphasis to your points. Use movement carefully! (And certainly, don’t pace…)
>> For a virtual presentation: Don’t move out of camera shot! But you CAN move forwards and backwards for gentle emphasis. Just keep it subtle. Nodding when someone else is talking is good. And even tip your head to one side to show your are listening (like a dog would).

4. Hand gestures. Using hand gestures is a useful way to support the point that you are making. Avoid holding your notes or gripping the edge of the table so that you can’t use your hands freely. Instead try and relax and use your hands to emphasize your words. Holding a microphone can inhibit your presentation body language too. Consider using a lapel mic instead.
>> For a virtual presentation: involve your hands, but don’t wave them around without meaning. We’ve seen a lot of excessive hand movement in virtual presentations where people are making up for the lack of body language opportunity. It looks OTT! Remember: Less is more, but something is something.

It may take a while for all of this to come naturally to you. Don’t stress. Be authentic to yourself. Do watch other people and see what works for them… and what doesn’t.

Definitely video yourself practicing your presentation at home or work: you will find that you can easily spot your own presentation body language mistakes and being aware of mistakes is the first step to fixing them!