Body language can have a strong influence on how others perceive you. The challenge is that it’s often conveyed unconsciously, through subtle movements, gestures, and positioning. However, learning to be intentional and using confident body language can help you be a more persuasive and effective communicator. When presenting, it’s important to know how to control your body language, nervous habits, hand gestures, and facial expressions. And while learning to exhibit confident body language can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Follow these suggestions to get started on building that confidence to become a better communicator.
1. Practice your smile
Smiling helps to create a sense of trust while keeping you relaxed and lowering your stress levels. It not only slows your heart rate, but also releases endorphins that can counteract the stress hormones released in your body. Smiling can also be beneficial during an interview or when delivering a presentation because it will help relax other people in the room and put them at ease.
2. Be aware of your posture
Posture is essential for portraying yourself as a more confident person. When you sit, try to keep your back straight with your back against the chair and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Your knees should be naturally bent at a right angle. If delivering a presentation from a standing position, make sure your shoulders are back and your chin is raised. When you slouch, you may come across as lazy or aloof. If you sit on the edge of the chair, you may seem overly tense or anxious.
3. Make sure your body language is engaging
Your body language should always be open and engaging. People should want to interact with you, feel comfortable doing so, and feel that you are engaging back with them during a conversation or presentation. Being engaging includes not only open body language but also smiling, nodding, and mimicking another’s expressions or movements so they can feel that you are on the same emotional level. It can also include rising and sitting with them and coming in close for a handshake when it comes time to close the deal or finish the conversation.
4. Be mindful of your arms and legs
Nearly everyone’s experienced that sensation of not knowing what to do with their arms and legs, and when you become self-conscious about your positioning and focus on that, you can create awkward body language. Crossing your arms is a common issue, as it causes you to come across as defensive, self-protecting, or otherwise closed off. Clasping your hands behind your back can make you appear bored, anxious, or even angry. Holding them together down and in front of you can mean that you are shy.
If you’re sitting down, you also need to watch how you cross your legs. If you feel more comfortable crossing your legs, it is important that you cross your legs toward the other person. Crossing your legs away from them can signal that you feel uncomfortable or dislike them. Crossing your ankles can be a sign that you are holding something back from the conversation.
5. Master a firm handshake
Nothing shows confidence more than a firm, solid handshake. It is also a sign that someone wants to do business with you, so it is a crucial factor to get right. You want the handshake to be strong, but definitely not to the point where you are crushing someone’s hand or hurting them in any way. Make sure your hands are dry, and provide a few shakes up and down while maintaining eye contact. A proper handshake makes a good first impression while exuding confidence.
6. Refrain from fidgeting
When you’re giving a presentation, whether it’s to a few people or a few hundred, make sure you avoid fidgeting. It shows not only a lack of confidence but also a lack of preparation. Any kind of nervous body language can be thought of as fidgeting, so be mindful of what your body is doing. Things like tapping your foot, biting your nails, twirling your hair, or repeatedly touching your face will give others the sense that you are not self-assured.
Fidgeting when you are making a presentation can make you appear nervous and unsure of the ideas you are pitching. Being aware of these habits will allow you to gain better control of them.
7. Maintain appropriate eye contact
Eye contact is a sign of trust and confidence. It also can tell someone that you are engaged, positive, and approachable, and can allow people to connect with you more easily. Even though eye contact is extremely beneficial, maintaining the appropriate amount is essential, as well. Too much eye contact can make you seem a little aggressive. Once you pass the point from gazing to staring, you may make people uncomfortable as it activates their sympathetic nervous system, putting them on the defense.
8. Watch your facial expressions
Always be aware of your facial expressions so you can avoid appearing bored or stoic. Your face is the part of you that will receive the most attention during a conversation, and a person will watch it to make sure that you are looking at them, listening to them, and understanding what they are saying.
We can convey a tremendous range of emotions with our facial expressions, so really explore what expressions work best with your message. Being emotive can help show that you’re comfortable and confident in what you’re presenting.
9. Pay attention to your hands
The parts of your brain that are vital to speech production show activity not only when you are talking, but also when you wave your hands. Gestures are linked to speech, so by incorporating your gestures into your speech delivery, you will be able to actually power up your thought process. You may also notice that your speech will be less hesitant and your verbal content will improve. Filler words such as “um” and “uh” will also decrease. Practice finding physical gestures that can help clear your thoughts and work well with your language.
You should always know what your hands are doing — and saying — when interacting with others and make sure that you are not unconsciously making any inappropriate gestures with your hands or fingers. Pointing or jabbing a finger at someone’s face can also feel aggressive. Instead, when you need to point during a conversation, do so with an open palm, keeping all of your fingers firmly together. Open hands with palms facing up can communicate acceptance, openness, and cooperation.
How to improve your body language when presenting
When it comes to presentations, you should always try to have confident body language, though there are also nuances to how you carry yourself. When using Prezi to show off a splashy presentation full of zoom animations, you’ll want to stand up straight and have a bigger presence on the stage. Alternately, if you’re giving a more free-flowing conversational presentation, you may choose to adopt a welcoming stance so that the audience feels open to engage and ask questions.
Your body language during a presentation conveys a lot about how you are feeling. Exuding confident body language is essential to keep your viewers engaged and actively listening. By being mindful of your own body language and the ways you can improve it, you can create a more impactful presentation.