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Leadership & Communication

Making actions speak louder than words when public speaking

24 Jul 2013, by Informa Insights

Communicating with Influence and Professional PresenceShowing confidence through your body language is one of the most important skills to develop as a public speaker.

Engaging an audience is more than just about keeping the content interesting (although obviously that plays a big part) – you must be able to convey the information in an interesting and eye-catching way.

Invoking emotion or creating interest via non-verbal communication can have a direct impact on how effective you are as a speaker.

Stiffly holding onto cue cards, the lectern or a PowerPoint clicker will not only make you seem nervous, it will prevent you from being fully expressive through body language.

Here are some top tips for showing sincerity, warmth and confidence using non-verbal communication.


It seems obvious, but nothing shows that you are at ease more than a welcoming smile.

Whether you work in retail, sales, hospitality or any other number of industries, it will be the first thing you are told to do, so take note for public speaking.

Smiling may be the last thing on your mind if you’re staring down dozens of blank faces, but smiling is contagious and you’ll soon find people joining in if they get into the swing of your presentation.

However, don’t overdo it – if you’re grinning all the way through it may come across as artificial.

Eye contact

One of the most common mistakes public speakers make is to avoid eye contact with their audience.

Whether they are too busy reading from a screen, their notes or a combination of both, speakers who fail to engage with their audience risk losing them very early.

And rather than just gazing randomly around the room, choose individual listeners and speak to them directly for several seconds before moving on.

This not only keeps listeners engaged, you can gauge how the presentation is going so far and make adjustments if necessary.

Avoid fidgeting

People fidget when they are nervous or when they are forced to stand in the same position for a long period of time, both of which are often integral factors of public speaking.

As such, you’ll need to make sure you’re not guilty of any little movements or facial expressions that indicate you are uncomfortable, impatient or eager to get off the stage.

Some of the more common culprits include playing with your hair, keeping your hands in your pocket or twiddling with buttons or sleeves.

Have a family member, friend or colleague watch you practice so they can inform you of any bad habits you may have picked up.

Be yourself

It is important to come across as naturally as possible, so while these tips will help you to improve your public speaking you should only use what makes you comfortable.

Copying gestures or body language tips from other speakers may seem awkward or artificial if they’re not something you would typically do.

Furthermore, you’ll need to make gestures convincing – half-hearted efforts such as using one arm while the other hold your notes are unlikely to draw listeners in.

Keep active

Avoid standing in the same spot during your presentation, particularly if this is behind a lectern or desk.

These will hide you from the audience’s view, reduce the impact of your mannerisms and actions, and make it a boring spectacle for those in attendance.

Walk up and down the length of the stage engaging all parts of the audience, and if you happen to be in a big conference or lecture hall, don’t be afraid to climb into the tiers and interact with people.

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