Rightly or wrongly, human nature drives us to follow (and trust) high-impact or “high-status” individuals, so if you want to influence and persuade, having a good presentation posture and avoiding unconscious low-status body language is a good idea. When you stand (or sit) with a strong presentation posture you feel calm and confident inside, and once this happens, the audience can’t help but sense that from you and see it in you. (The opposite is also true that if you look scared and nervous the audience will see that and feel that too).
In my book “High-Performance Presentations” I use an example of a king posture and jester (joker) posture. Look at the king’s body language in the illustration and notice how it conveys high status – he’s standing up straight and either not moving or moving slowly, and his hands would remain mostly still.
Now compare that to the jester – he’s always moving around, hopping from one foot to another and waving his hands and arms in the air. He may be funny, and the audience may well laugh, but is he conveying high status? Are people really listening to his message?
The king and jester principles can be applied to a seated position too for example if you are presenting virtually on a Zoom call. When seated sit tall, don’t use the back of the chair to hold you up and ensure your face is filling most of the screen.
Good body language is critical to a confident calm and clear presentation. If you want to improve your presentation skills, here are a few basic exercises which will help.
During our presentation skills one to one training, we show our participants a good neutral standing posture which makes you feel confident inside and look and sound confident outside. We’ve created the “How to stand when giving a presentation” video to give you a feel for what we teach our clients and there is an exercise below so you can practise it right now. These principles hold true for the Seated Presenter Stance too. And if you want to learn these techniques for in person presentations or virtual meetings check out our Presentation Training (Present with Confidence) programme available as individual or team training.
Before we look at breathing and voice projection and tips on confident facial expressions when giving a presentation let’s look at presentation posture/position and where to put your hands during a presentation.
During our presentation skills one-to-one training, we teach a good neutral standing or seated posture which makes you feel confident inside, and look and sound confident outside. Have a look at our “How to…presentation posture/position” video to give you a feel for it, then practise this exercise below. This is just one of the techniques covered in our One to One Presentation Skills Training Course.
If you hunch over the PC for far too long each day you may want to practise this every day anyway!
Before we show you how you can use your hands when presenting, first I want to show you how to NOT use your hands when presenting! It may seem unusual but I’m always telling clients to keep their hands still whilst they learn the body language basics. Why? Untrained people are very likely to use their hands incorrectly meaning they send the opposite message with their body language than that intended. If the words you are saying don’t match up to the message you are giving with your hands, at best, you look inconsistent and, at worst, untrustworthy.
I suggest you practise using very minimal hand movements by recording yourself either when presenting standing up or sitting down. Try this:
How you can use your hands during a presentation
In the book High-Performance Presentations, I talk further about ensuring you keep your hands still and then when you do use hand movements you do make are correct, conscious and clear. And for now, watch this video “where to put hands during a presentation” where I show you how hands are great for counting your 3 key points on (and how to do it in a manner that avoids random flying round of offensive fingers!) You’ll also see how to represent two parties coming together using your hands and more tips.
Breathing and voice projection is vital to your presentation. Experiencing breathlessness and speaking too quickly is a common problem for anxious presenters. I want to share some useful techniques when giving a presentation that aid calm and confident performances.
The main reasons for getting out of breath when giving a presentation are:
We all know how to breathe, but the chances are unless we are musicians, singers, athletes or completed some presentation skills training, we’ve ‘forgotten’ how to control our breath – and that’s something that makes a huge difference to our presentations.
Your breathing plays a huge role in the success of your presentation. Slow and measured breathing is characteristic of control and that’s you want. Prepared, ready and in control.
Once you’ve got it right, your breathing will be even and you’ll be able to project more effectively. You’ll also find that your breath will last longer, so no embarrassing gasping or breathlessness.
Prior to beginning your presentation I always recommend you centre yourself with your breathing; a great little exercise to do this takes 3 deep breaths followed by one normal breath.
During your presentation, regulating your breathing is a great way to regulate your talking speed. If you start speaking too quickly, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, then a normal breath, and continue. (If you’re using a microphone, do it quietly – as you don’t want to sound like Darth Vader)! You can disguise this action if you want to, by taking a moment to check your notes.
Finally, good posture and body language are critical to ensuring you stand (or sit) up straight, open your windpipe and can breathe easily. You won’t suffer from shortness of breath and you’ll add to your calm composure. A good presentation posture also leads to better voice production and projection so you don’t have to shout to be heard.