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Body Language is a Presentation Skill that Sets the Stage for Success

Posted on April 23, 2015 by Leslie Dickson

Have you ever heard of the comedic musician Victor Borge? Take a look at an old film clip of Borge on YouTube. His trademark humorous sketch involved reading a story and illustrating the punctuation marks by drawing them in the air with accompanying sound effects. It never failed to capture an audience and keep them in stitches. And, I suspect, most people left the theater able to repeat the story to family and friends.

Isn’t that the kind of response we’d all like to have to our presentations? People remembering it?  People repeating it? From my years helping VoicePro® clients enhance their presentation skills, I think there’s a good bit to be learned from the stage presence of Mr. Borge – beyond the fact that funny sound effects make people laugh.

Use your hands expressively.

(I’m not talking about nervous fidgeting here.) Take your hands out of your pockets. Don’t clamp them to the side of a podium. Is there something on a screen or someone in the audience you should be gesturing to? Scratching your head or shrugging your shoulders may illustrate the difficulty of a problem better than words alone ever could. Can you lift an imaginary box, shake a virtual hand, signal a metaphorical touchdown?

Consider props.

Maybe it’s that stack of unpaid invoices. Or the performance trophy you’d like your team to win. Or a chess piece or other icon that makes a strategic point. The human mind loves symbols that helps us hold on to an idea.

Break the fourth wall.

That’s an acting phrase that means the actors come out of the scene they’re playing to address the audience. A presentation, while it’s directed at an audience, can sometimes feel like it’s boxed in. To break that wall, can you call on people in the audience? Bring them up to tell a story – or point them out and tell their story for them? What would happen if you left the stage and walked among the audience? And, haven’t you noticed that a question-and-answer session can be the best part of any presentation?

Keep your stance open and confident.

No slumping or hunching. When your body is open, you convey energy and a readiness to engage. Remember that crossed arms can telegraph anger or fear. Keep them relaxed.

Don’t forget to keep making eye contact.

This goes back to breaking the fourth wall. If you’re talking to the back wall or the pad of paper on the conference room table, you’re not communicating.  Even in a large room, where a sea of faces can make eye contact difficult, be sure to speak to individuals.

For more tips, take a look at the VoicePro Five Great Skills™ of Communication on our website.

Image from Victor Borga Facebook 

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