Giving a presentation and speaking in front of a room full of peers can be a pretty stressful experience, but there are ways to keep you confident and authority even when you are nervous. It is normal to get tense before an important presentation but is important to not transmit that tension to your audience. If you use confident, secure body language, project your voice and prepare for your presentation in advance, you will feel like a confident, expert speaker.
So how can you send out the positive signals, even when nervous and generate a great success during a presentation? At the Center for Body Language, we’ve studied successful leaders across a range of fields and identified several positions which are indicators of effective, persuasive body language.
Practice good posture. Hold your head up and keep your chin in when standing and giving a presentation. Keep your shoulders back and try to keep your earlobes in line with the center of your shoulders. Good posture conveys to the audience that you are confident, credible, and sure of your subject. Speaking with proper posture also allows you to project your voice, making your speech clear and assertive.
Pyramid hands. When people are nervous, their hands often flit about and fidget. When they’re confident, they are still. One way to accomplish that is to clasp both hands together in a relaxed pyramid. The idea is to show you’re relaxed, not smug.
Wide stance. How people stand is a strong indicator of their mindset. When you stand in this strong and steady position, with your feet about a shoulder width apart, it signals that you feel in control.
Palms up. This gesture indicates openness and honesty.
Palms down. The opposite movement can be viewed positively too—as a sign of strength, authority and assertiveness. Barack Obama has often used it to calm a crowd right after moments of rousing oration.
Smile. A warm, inviting smile will convey to your audience that you are at ease and are comfortable. Your smile will make you appear and sound more pleasant, and you will come off as responsive and composed. Smiling can also help to reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and your heart rate, all of which will put you at ease while giving your presentation.
Rehearse it in front of a mirror. Position yourself in front of a mirror and practice giving your presentation. Pretend that you are in front of your peers and colleagues, and try to imagine that you are on the stage or in front of a classroom while speaking. This will allow you to practice your movements, your pace, your hand gestures, and it will remind you to smile during the speech. You will become more familiar with the material and the flow of the information. After several practice runs, you will be more comfortable and confident.
Record yourself. The next time you give a presentation, try to have it recorded, then review the video with the sound off, watching only your body language. How did you stand and gesture? Did you use any of these positions? If not, think about how you might do so the next time you’re in front of an audience, or even just speaking to your boss or a big client. Practice in front of a mirror, then with friends, until they feel natural.