An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site
Your Performance : Using Your Body
Two men walk out onto the stage.
One holds back. His hands are clasped in front of him, protecting him (at least symbolically) from the audience. He looks down, reads from his notes, doesn’t really catch our eyes.
The other stands up straight. He looks out over the audience, acknowledging the people whose faces he brushes with his eyes. His hands are sometimes by his sides, but often in front of him, making strong broad gestures to emphasise his points. He is dymanic.
Which is the more confident?
You might be tempted to say the latter. The second man seems more confident, and the audience will trust his because he is confident of what he is saying. But actually, the second man is simply aware of what he is doing on the stage and aware of what looks good to his audience.
Its all about being aware of your body. And there is nothing new about what a confident looking speaker does.
“Stand up straight” you were probably admonished by an older relative, perhaps a grandmother or great aunt.
“Hands out of your pockets”
“Look at me when I’m talking to you” (well, more like when you’re talking to me – talking, even from a stage, is a two way street, a two way communication”
These are the things you need to be aware of. Think of how you walk onto the stage. Do you stride on proudly? Do you rush on? Do you slink on, hoping (despite being in front of everybody) that no-one will notice you – because you’re slightly embarrassed to be there?
How would it feel if you were being called onto the stage to be given a medal for some act of heroism? To come onto stage to the applause of everyone in the room – people who are all here because they want to hear everything you have to say, because possibly they just want to be near a man like you. Can you feel that? Would it be different from how you currently walk onto the stage? Would you walk taller? Perhaps throw your shoulders back? Grin at the audience, with a strong knowing smile. Pause and enjoy the moment?
Then perhaps that is how you should begin. Your body is sending signals to the audience. It is saying “I deserve to be hear. Treat me like a hero”. But it is also saying the same things to you. You’ll feel not just the butterflies that the adrenaline gives you, but also the warmth of inner confidence – and, however brief that might be, it is better for it to be there than not. It is necessary to tap into the inner reservoir of speaking talent you may otherwise never reach.
the next thing to be aware of is what you do with your body
Do you rock from side to side?
Do you clasp your hands in front of you? Or play with your fingers.
Do you stand deadly still, worried that if you move lions (or the audience – who may be just as dangerous) will see you?
How? that is the rub. You can’t just stand still. The answer is to throw yourself into your words. Start simple. Walk around and use the stage. That will stop you rocking. If you are talking about emotions, mime those emotions – don’t worry about over acting – from a stage, all actors have to overact to get their message across to the back of the room, and any acting is more than most people hearing a speaker expect to receive. If you are talking about something big, mime ‘big’ with your hands – or with your body. If you are taking about something small, mime small with your hands, or crouch down into a little ball.
Now the audience – and you – are not just hearing your presentation, they are beginning to feel it.
If you’re counting “There are three things you need to know” then show people one, two three on your fingers. If you have a choice between this and that, then this is on one side of you and that is on the other. You can move between the two spots you show your audience as you talk about them.
And thats just the beginning. If you feel it, do it.
You’ll always have a few bad habits. Me, I bunch my hands into fists. I punch with them to make my points. This can be a good thing in small doses, but I do it too much. Just be vigilant to what actions you repeatedly make, and try to control them the next time you talk to a crowd. In time, you’ll gain control over your body, and your presentations will gain from it.