Got An Important Presentation Coming Up? These 6 Body Language Tips Help You Crack It

Body language is an important component of any stellar presentation (something we often forget!) Learn how to create the right impact with these positive body language tips.

Body language is an important component of any stellar presentation (something we often forget!) Learn how to create the right impact with these positive body language tips.

Your ideas have great potential for business success, you’ve done stellar research for your presentation and know that your message is powerful.

While content is the building block of a great presentation, your delivery can enhance or sabotage that content.

Then why do we wing our delivery most of the times?

These are some common reasons.

“I just want to be myself.”

“I don’t want to seem canned.”

“I want to be spontaneous and fresh.”

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Can’t argue with that.

But perhaps with a bit of technique.

Unlike a lunch hour discussion with a group of colleagues, when you’re making a formal presentation, your information is purposeful with a very clear goal of educating and/or influencing your audience.

Unfortunately, just the content alone is not sufficient to achieve these goals in this digitized lifestyle of very short attention spans.

Amongst the various things that you need to prepare, once your content is ready; the most important one is being purposeful with your BODY LANGUAGE.

Why should you be purposeful with your body language?

Solve for short attention spans

For example, a powerful opening line will help grab attention, but if the speaker is not engaging enough, people will lose attention in as little as 8 seconds.

In fact, even with a good, engaging speaker, our average attention span is around 20 minutes. (TED talks are 18 minutes long on an average!)

Build trust and credibility

By making purposeful nudges you can feel and show more confidence.

Confident people are considered to be more trustworthy.

“People are more willing to trust and use information offered by confident-looking others when working on problems for which they could earn a profit, as work by University of British Columbia psychologists Jason Martens and Jessica Tracy demonstrates”, says a report of a study in the Harvard Business Review.

Increase your influence

The psychology of persuasion increasingly shows that nonverbal cues are at the least 4 times more powerful in persuading people.

Now that you’re equipped with the science, here’s rolling out six non-verbal tools that you can use at your next presentation.

#1 Smile to feel good & create positivity

The smile is the symbol that is rated with the highest positive emotional content.

– Andrew Newberg, Director of Research, Marcus Institute of Integrative Health

When you enjoy what you speak about, a smile often comes naturally. It’s the easiest strategy to implement but easier said than done! The reason for that is when we speak in a public setting we’re very conscious of being JUDGED.

As a result, all your attention is on yourself and how others are perceiving you. Despite that, you can learn to smile.

For that, let’s understand how a smile impacts the brain.

When we smile, there is a positive feedback loop that goes back to the brain and makes us feel happy.

Basically, when we feel good we smile, and similarly when we smile, the message that goes to our brain is to feel good. This helps in calming our nerves.


Additionally, researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden found that when someone smiles at us, it stimulates our brains mirror neurons, which makes us smile back, therefore creating a mutually positive experience.

Once you start having that experience with your audience, the whole presentation becomes smooth and enjoyable.

#2 Broadcast confidence with your posture

Standing with self-assured confidence conveys to your audience that you’re in charge. Audience members love listening to such a speaker.

In the words of Gary Genard, author of Fearless Speaking, “How you stand affects your standing with your audience.

If you make any of these standing mistakes, you project low confidence to your audience.

  • Slouching with your shoulders hunched.
  • Leaning backward putting too much pressure on your lower back.
  • Standing with your legs crossed.
  • Leaning on one hip.
  • Standing with your feet touching each other.

Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Then try this exercise. Imagine, there’s a string from the top of your head into infinity.

Now, it’s being gently pulled up till your head, neck, waist and hips get into their natural alignment.

It makes you straight but not stiff. Watch this video to understand more.

 #3 Make deeper eye contact

An audience that feels connected has a higher likelihood of being influenced by you.

To be able to build connections and forge social relations, our body needs the release of OxytocinOxytocin, popularly called the bonding hormone is usually released through physical touch and mutual eye contact.

Give an audience member one full sentence or thought of eye contact. Keep doing this at regular intervals with different members during your presentation.

This can help you make a conversation with them, as against speaking at them. Although you’re creating a deeper connection with some individuals, all the audience members can feel it.

At the same time, do avoid these common eye contact mistakes:

  • Looking at the wall right opposite.
  • Turning repeatedly towards the projector to see your slides.
  • Looking at just one person all the time.
  • Scanning your audience. It’s the recourse of the not so confident.

#4 Use supporting hand gestures

A friend who was preparing to present at his first ever town hall said, “Since I don’t know what to do with my hands while speaking, I keep one hand in my pocket.

Not using hand gestures can indicate 3 things:

  1. You have no emotional investment in the issue.
  2. You don’t recognize that it’s a crucial issue.
  3. You don’t realize the impact of your nonverbal behavior on your listener.

There’s a lot that you can do with them. Hand gestures help us become more memorable. Charismatic influencers know the importance of hand gestures. They help in:

Showing intention:This means so much to me.”

While saying this if your hand touches your heart, it helps bring out the emotion.

Explanation:This will be a big year for us.”

When you show the size of “BIG” it helps your audience’s brain keep track of the explanation. See these two pictures as an example:

When you want to express yourself in the best possible manner you should use your hand gestures

Show with your hand gestures what you want to say. It will help you become more memorable

Building trust: “Please come in.

When you indicate with your hands along with your speech, it builds trust by showing that our hands are in sync with what we are saying orally.

Judith Holler and Geoffrey Beattie from the University of Manchester have extensively studied hand gestures. In their words,

“Iconic gestures can effectively communicate semantic information alongside speech.”

Specially when you’re public speaking, hand gestures help engage the listener at two levels – your voice and your hands. This helps in increasing their involvement sharply.

study of ted talks found that the most popular, viral speakers used around 465 hand gestures in a ~20 minute speech, whereas the least popular ones used 272 hand gestures on an average. That’s almost double!

In action

#1. Everyone produces gestures spontaneously and unwittingly as they speak. We may seldom think of our gestures consciously. What we need to do is be aware of our hand gestures, their frequency and their sync with our words. If I say “This is a big deal for me” with the hand gesture of showing “little” your brain will believe my hand gesture more than my words.

#2. But remember the spectrum. Too many and wrongly done hand gestures can make you come come across as “jazz handsy” and no hand gestures can make you come across as stiff. Watch this video to understand the spectrum and figure out your sweet spot.

#3. There are different types of hand gestures you can incorporate in your business life. Here are some examples:


It’s suggested that if you have a number less than 5 then always show it with your hands.

E.g. “My point number 1 is…

We work with 3 different types of clients.

There are 4 different parts to this project.

what to do with my hands while speaking

“My point number 1 is…”


Use a small sized glass.

It’s a small problem. No big deal.

This is a big opportunity.

Use hand gestures to improve your body language while public speaking

“Use a small sized glass.”

Division or bring together

Let’s come together for this very important cause.

You need to divide this project into multiple phases.

When Barack Obama wants to show that we are all in it together he uses this hand gesture

“Let’s come together for this very important cause.”


Steeple is a powerful gesture to bring gravitas and show composure. Try this specially when listening to an audience member asking questions.

Use the steeple to show power



Using culturally appropriate emblems helps in increasing the impact of your message.

All is super good.”

“I’m ok.”

“Are you ready?”

Use the thumbs up gesture to show all is good

“All is super good.”


I want you to bring your attention to this most important point.

“You need to keep in mind just one thing.”

I want you to bring your attention to this very important point

“I want you to bring your attention to this most important point.”

#5 Use movement appropriately

Standing at one spot can make things boring. Not just that, it can also make you come across as nervous because you are frozen in one spot. But on the other hand mindless, repetitive movement or pacing up and down can be distracting.

If you incorporate purposeful movement you’ll make a greater impact by breaking the monotony and looking confident, as movement helps in dissipating the extra adrenalin in your system.

If you’re on a big stage then mentally pick spots for:

  • Pointing to the slide
  • Engaging the audience
  • Declaring your big idea

And move to that spot when you want to do any of these.

Some more tactical tips:

  • If you’re telling a story with two characters move to two different spots when narrating the lines of each character.
  • If you’re comparing two things then move to side A when talking about A and side B when talking about that side.
  • When telling a story which involves passage of time, move on the stage along with the timeline.

Speaking coach Olivia Mitchell has these helpful tips on how to incorporate movement in your presentation. Have a look here.

#6 Angle your body towards the audience

You want to inspire your audience to interact with you. Encourage that through your body, by angling it towards them.

Let’s say someone asks you a question; while listening to them align your top, torso and toes towards that person.

After that, another person on the other side comments on something. Now turn your body and angle it towards them.

This is a powerful way to build a deeper connection with your audience during the Q&A round. Watch this video learn the science of fronting.

Sum Up

By focusing on your body language, you can look natural, assured and authoritative. Only when you feel confident and at ease, you can best serve the needs of your audience. Here’s a round up of all the key points:

  1. Most of us work on our content but wing our delivery. A good delivery can enhance your content.
  2. Your body language can help in your delivery. It’s important to be purposeful with your body language to help engage with your audience, build trust and enhance your credibility.
  3. A purposeful smile helps in creating a mutually positive experience.
  4. How you stand impacts your standing with your audience.
  5. Make a deep eye contact with members of the audience.
  6. Use hand gestures to become more memorable.
  7. Use movements effectively to enhance the value of your message.
  8. Angle your body towards your audience to engage with them.

First published here.

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