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Adult Learner preparing for Public Speaking

8 Body Language Cues for Powerful Public Speaking

Few things in the academic or professional world cause more anxiety than public speaking and presentations. The fear and anxiety is understandable, but not necessary – and indeed, most (if not all) of the reasons for that anxiety are completely in your control.

Preparation, practice and confidence are the three keys to successful public speaking. Even if you don’t feel confident on the inside, there are simple but significant ways to project confidence on the outside that will go a long way toward reeling your audience in and hitting your points home. You can learn how to project confidence and deliver a powerful presentation in our public speaking course, which is offered every semester.

In the meantime, here’s a quick primer on eight body language cues for powerful public speaking, according to Keith Yamashita of Unstuck:​

  1. Make lots of eye contact to make your presentation feel more like a personal conversation, which will engage your audience and help to hold their attention.
  2. Pay attention to your posture – great posture projects confidence, which inspires your audience to feel confident in you and the information you’re sharing.
  3. Use a loud, projecting voice. This seems obvious, but nerves can often make people shrink like a violet and unintentionally speak in a quitter voice – and if your audience can’t hear you, you’ve lost them before you’ve even started.
  4. Use frequent (but natural) hand gestures. This will help to keep your audience’s attention and can help to hit your key points home.
  5. Use confident pauses when you need them. Aside from the practical benefit of allowing you a moment to take a breath and collect your thoughts, a purposeful pause is a great way to pique interest in what you’re about to say next.
  6. Maintain a relaxed flow. Just as nerves can cause you to speak softly, they can also make you speak more quickly than you intend. Not only might you lose your audience, you’ll also erode their confidence in your expertise. Make a conscious effort not to rush through (tip #5 is a great way to keep from doing this!)
  7. Stay out of the way of your projector. It’s jarring for you to have it shining in your eyes, and awkward and distracting for your audience – who also won’t be able to see your slides.
  8. Be in the moment. Yamashita recommends memorizing the logic of your presentation as opposed to the actual words – the points and stories you want to share, and in what order – not a word-for-word speech. This will allow you to have a more relaxed and natural conversation with your audience, which again, will keep them engaged and will allow your own interest and passion for the topic to shine through.

Read more of Yamashita’s tips in his original post here.​​

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