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7 Body Language Mistakes to Avoid When Presenting
by Gilda Bonanno

Your non-verbal communications, or body language, can help you communicate your message to your audience when you are presenting.  Movement, posture and facial expression are three elements of body language and they should mirror and enhance your words.  Used effectively, they can enable you to convey your content successfully.  Used inappropriately or sloppily, however, they can distract your audience and conflict with your message.

Here are seven mistakes to avoid with your movement, posture and facial expression:


1.    Moving without purpose.  Most of the time you should stand confidently in one place rather than pacing back and forth or walking aimlessly.  If you do need to move, it should have a purpose.  For example, walk confidently to the front of the room before you begin speaking and walk with purpose to the flipchart or to the computer. 

2.    Shifting from your weight from one foot to the other.  Many people do this unconsciously and sometimes because their feet hurt (hint: wear comfortable shoes!) or they're nervous.  Instead, stand with your feet firmly planted on the floor, with your weight equally distributed on both feet. 

3.    Hiding behind a desk, podium or flipchart.  If the room configuration is set up so you are partially obscured behind something, then you have to rely more heavily on your voice and facial expressions to convey meaning.  If you are nervous and feel exposed when there's nothing between you and the audience, practice, practice, practice – in front of the mirror, on video, in front of a friendly group of colleagues.  If you must stand behind something, do so with assurance and not as if you are shrinking from the audience.



4.    Standing too stiffly.  Yes, you should stand up straight but it should be natural, not like you are frozen at attention.  Keep your shoulders back and hold your head up so you can make eye contact.  This posture conveys confidence and helps you breathe more fully.

5.    Slouching and keeping your head down.  Not only does it prevent you from looking at the audience, but it also conveys nervousness and makes it harder for the audience to hear you.


6.     Not smiling, ever. Unless you are delivering horrible news, it is appropriate for you to smile, even in a business setting.  Smiling will relax you and, in turn, relax the audience.


7.    Smiling too much, especially when delivering bad news.   You may be smiling or even giggling because you are very nervous, but it undermines the seriousness of your message and your sincerity.  If you smile broadly or giggle while announcing mass layoffs, for example, your audience will interpret it as a sign of your lack of concern.

Eliminating these seven movement, posture and facial expression mistakes from your presentation will help you convey confidence and sincerity when you're presenting.And your body language will reinforce your message to the audience rather than distract from it.  

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2010




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