Enhancing your presentations with effective body language(2)

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By Goke Ilesanmi

Last week, we said body language, otherwise called “visual skills” refers to the use of gestures, eye contact, body movement, facial expression, etc. We added that whether you are trying to persuade your organisation to increase your salary, address a top management meeting, give a sales presentation or persuade the electorate to vote for you as a politician, you must ensure that you enhance your presentation with effective body language.

We stressed that the reality is that when your words and body language are properly connected, your presentations will be outstanding but if your podium behaviour includes mannerisms that are not related to your spoken message, those actions will attract attention to themselves and arrest audience’s attention away from your presentation,

We said you need to get rid of distracting habits so that your presentations can become enjoyable. We educated that you specifically have to avoid vocal and visual impediments such as finger-tapping, lip-biting or -licking, gripping or leaning on the lectern, adjustment of hair or clothing, head-wagging, etc.

We said according to Lenny Laskowski, an international professional speaker and the author of “No Sweat Presentations – The Painless Way to Successful Speaking” and many other publications, these have two things in common: they are physical manifestations of simple nervousness and they are performed unconsciously.We explained that this is because when you make a verbal mistake, you can easily correct it, because you can hear your own words, but you cannot see yourself, so most distracting mannerisms go uncorrected and therefore, you cannot eliminate them unless you know they exist.

We advised that the next time you are having a conversation with someone you know well, try to notice whether you use any of these distracting mannerisms even in casual circumstances. We stressed the need to tackle each of these negative habits one at a time.


Facial expressions

It is a reality that appropriate facial expressions are an important part of effective communication. Facial expressions are often the key determinant of the meaning behind the message. People watch a speaker’s face during a presentation. When you speak, your face communicates to others your attitudes, feelings and emotions more clearly than any other part of your body.

According to Laskowski, inappropriate expressions include distracting mannerisms or unconscious expressions not rooted in your feelings, attitudes and emotions. In much the same way that some speakers perform random, distracting gestures and body movements, nervous speakers often release excess energy and tension by unconsciously moving their facial muscles (e.g., licking lips, tightening the jaw).

Research shows that involuntary frowning constitutes one type of unconscious facial movement which is less apt to be read clearly by the audience. It manifests when a speaker attempts to deliver a memorised speech. Experts say there are no rules governing the use of specific expressions. But if you relax your inhibitions and allow yourself to respond naturally to your thoughts, attitudes and emotions, your facial expressions will be appropriate and will project believability and sincerity


Eye contact

Eye contact is the cement that binds together speakers and their audiences. When you speak, your eyes involve your listeners in your presentation. The easiest way to break a communication bond between you and the audience is by failing to look at your listeners. No matter how large your audience may be, each listener wants to feel that you are talking to him or her.

The adage, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul”, underlines the need for you to convince people with your eyes, as well as your words. Only by looking at your listeners as individuals can you convince them that you are sincere and are interested in them, and that you care whether they accept your message.

When you speak, your eyes also function as a control device you can use to assure your listeners’ attentiveness and concentration. Even in my Nigerian tribe of Yoruba, there is a popular traditional maxim that “the message is in the eyes” by way of transliteration or literal translation.

It is equally noteworthy that eye contact can also help you to overcome nervousness by making your audience a known quantity. Effective eye contact is an important feedback device that makes the speaking situation a two-way communication process. By looking at your audience, you can determine how they are reacting. When you develop the ability to gauge the audience’s reactions and adjust your presentation accordingly, you will be a much more effective speaker.


Effective eye communication

  1. Master your material. To be able to use your eyes effectively, you need to master your material very well so much that you will not need to devote the totality of your mental energy to the task of remembering the sequence of ideas and words common in memorised speeches or reading of speeches.

You should prepare well and rehearse enough so that you do not have to depend predominantly on reading. Findings show that many speakers, no matter how well prepared, need at least a few notes to deliver their message.

If you can speak effectively without reading or even consulting notes do so. But if you must use notes, that is fine. But do not let notes be a substitute for preparation and rehearsal. Even many experienced speakers use notes. Often, they take advantage of such natural pauses as audience laughter or the aftermath of an important point to glance briefly at their notes. To make this technique work, keep your notes brief.

To be continued

PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.


GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng       

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