Posted by Serena Tweet
It is hard to 'learn' a visual language; it can seem very staged and stilted if it is not rooted in reality. For the actor, all body language is driven by the internal expression of the character they are playing. So a confident character will have strong, self-assured physical movements, and a shy retiring character might be introverted, withdrawn and unconfident in her movements. These physical characteristics give the audience lots of clues about the character before any words are spoken.
Making a presentation brings different challenges; there is no character to draw on, there is only YOU! You are the centre of attention, and it is vital that you take your place with confidence, so that your audience can feel at ease. If you can 'act as if' you are confident (whatever you may be feeling), you will not only reassure your audience BUT actually FEEL more confident all at the same time.
The social psychologist Amy Cuddy, in her brilliant TED talk, tells of 'power posing': she has researched and proven that if, before a presentation, you stand for 2 minutes with arms outstretched sideways, chest lifted (and breathe!), you will enter the presentation space with the aura of confidence.
Taking the time and effort to make eye contact does the same thing; a good, steady (soft, not staring) eye contact creates a feeling of confidence in those we are talking to (remember your mum telling you to look people in the eye when you speak to them?).
We are constantly (unconsciously) reading the body language and signals of others, and we can tell at once if someone is terrified, or just plain anxious.
As a presenter, your job is to make your audience feel comfortable and to keep them engaged with your use of body language, as well as your voice. So, look them in the eye (make sure you know your subject, of course), plant your feet firmly on the ground, and take your place confidently centre stage.
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