Body language is our non-verbal way of expressing our thoughts and feelings. We gesture with our body and use facial expressions without even realising it. Being aware of how we use our body language is a powerful tool when it comes to the art of negotiation and persuasion and will help fully engage your listener/s.
Once you learn how to use your body language, you will naturally be able to read others which will help you gauge situations quickly and adjust your behaviour as necessary. This is great in meetings especially if you are needing to really capture the attention of who you are talking to.
Here are some top tips to consider when you are in your next meeting or giving your next presentation or speech.
- Use open body language – make sure your arms are unfolded and your hands are unclenched. This shows the listener that you are being open and will help convey honesty and integrity. If you have to deliver bad news or face a difficult meeting where there is the potential of a sticky situation, you will most likely see your audience with arms crossed, facing away from you and not making eye contact. If you mirror their behaviour then you will hit a stalemate. By showing you are open allows them to feel more at ease and they are far more likely to engage.
- Make eye contact – No matter if you are speaking to one person, a few people or a whole room full of people, eye contact is important. Of course, there is a fine balance between holding eye contact with the same person for too long and not holding it for long enough. Too long and you are in a creepy staring match, not long enough will make you appear disengaged. A few seconds at a time is more than adequate. If you speaking to a room full of people then pick out people left, right and centre and alternate every few seconds.
- Avoid touching your face and fidgeting – If you frequently touch your face or fidget you will come across as being uncomfortable, untrustworthy, dishonest and shifty. It really won’t matter how great your subject is if you let your body language contradict what you are talking about.
- Use open hand gestures – Be careful to not overdo the gestures with your hands, this can be distracting from what you are saying. Having your hands opened palmed will convey openness, sharing and trust. Unless you are putting across a serious issue and it is intentional. Never point, this will show aggression and will turn your audience right off.
- Smile – Unless you are delivering bad news of course! The simple act of smiling will show warmth and trustworthiness. Your audience will be put at ease and feel more relaxed and open. Smiling changes your whole persona and has a knock-on effect, if you are smiling you tend to make others smile. Much like how a yawn is contagious.
- Posture – If you are standing to give a presentation or speech, stand with your shoulders back and chin up, this will convey confidence and also frees your diaphragm which will help to keep your voice loud and clear.
Bonus Tip: Film yourself giving your presentation or speech so you can see how you are gesturing, the facial expressions you are making, and any bad habits you may be displaying without even realising it. Most of us are self-critical when watching ourselves back on film, so try not to be too hard on yourself.
Written by Sarah English for Birmingham Speakers Club - 08 September 2020.