Whether outlining your business idea to investors or leading a routine sales meeting within your own organization, presentations are make-or-break moments in your professional career. The foundation of a great presentation is your material, and the more you prepare, the better your final result will be, but there’s another factor in your ultimate success as a presenter: the execution of your presentation.
Speak confidently with poise and charm and a passable presentation can become successful. On the other hand, poor execution can compromise the effectiveness of otherwise brilliant material. To make the most of your material and put yourself over the top, try these seven innovative body language hacks.
1. Prepare with a Superman pose.
Before your presentation even begins, take some time in a bathroom or other private area to practice your best Superman pose. Stand tall with your chest out. Either place your hands on your hips with your elbows flared or raise your arms over your head in a victory pose. The key is to make yourself look and feel as big as possible. Doing this for a few minutes before a major event will make you feel naturally more confident, which in turn will drive your presentation.
2. Stand tall.
Slouching can be a hard habit to break, but it’s important to do so if you want to look your best during the presentation. Make the presentation standing tall with your shoulders back. Be careful not to puff your chest out or exaggerate your height, but do straighten your body. This has two distinct benefits. First, you’ll appear more confident to your audience, which increases the value of your material. Second, your airway will become aligned and you’ll naturally speak louder and clearer.
3. Open your posture.
It’s important to keep your posture open. You'll seem both more confident and more trustworthy to your audience, even if it’s only on a subconscious level. Don’t fold your arms across your body or to put your hands in your pocket. Don’t cross your legs and lean against a wall, either. Keep your limbs open and wide to demonstrate that you are an open individual. Your message will be better received.
4. Look into the eyes of your audience.
Eye contact is a key part of body language and communication advice for one-on-one meetings like job interviews and sales negotiations, but it’s also useful in a large presentation format. Obviously, when speaking to a large group of people you can’t look in everybody’s eyes at once. Instead, focus on key members of your audience and look into their eyes. Don’t hold it for more than a few seconds; alternate throughout the room to include as many people as possible. Doing so gives your presentation an extra personal touch, and shows that you’re truly invested in your audience.
5. Move freely.
The stage is your territory, so use it up. Don’t make the mistake of standing in one location, even if it’s behind a podium. Instead, walk freely around the stage and take up as much space as possible. You will appear more natural, more confident, more at ease with your surroundings. This also allows your voice to project in different ways.
6. Use your hands.
Get your hands involved with your presentation to strengthen your points and get your audience more involved. Point your finger into your palm to drive a point home. Open up your hands to demonstrate uncertainty or suggest participation. The possible gestures and applications are limitless, but do use them sparingly. Using hand gestures too often can make you appear nervous or frantic. Using the same gestures over and over again can make you appear gimmicky or predictable. Instead, use multiple types of gestures and only during moments of your presentation when you need the extra “oomph.”
7. Loosen your facial expressions.
People look to faces for visual cues to another person’s emotions, intentions and trustworthiness. Being in front of a large audience doesn’t change that. To maximize the impact and effectiveness of what you say, keep your facial expressions loose as you move through different areas of your presentation. It will make you seem more sincere and more human, which goes a long way in persuading an audience.
Of course, acknowledging these body language habits isn’t enough. If you want to be truly successful in their execution -- without looking like a crazy person -- you’ll need to practice them in a real environment. Work with a friend or colleague to test these body language hacks. Tweak them until they appear and feel natural to you. Before you know it, they’ll be a natural part of your speaking habits and you’ll never have to worry about them again!