Do you demonstrate confidence as a speaker? Your body language lends you credibility and charisma, or reveals that you don't have control. Which are you showing audiences?
What you show a public speaking audience is what they take away. For that matter, it's the same in interpersonal communication, team meetings, motivational talks, or whenever you speak.
How you use body language is a key factor in communication success, and not only in showing an audience what you think about them. It also reveals how you feel about yourself.
So, are you demonstrating you're in control when you speak? Or are you broadcasting that you're a nervous speaker, one who wishes you were anyplace else but in the public speaking venue where you're now presenting?
From job interviews to presentations and even speaking virtually, audiences are responding to what you show them. Learn how to use your body to your advantage! Download my free cheat sheet, "5 Secrets of Powerful Body Language."
The good news is, you have the ability to control an audience's perceptions concerning how you feel about yourself and the public speaking situation. With the help of the reminders below, you can use physical expression itself to deliver a message of confidence—whatever you're actually talking about.
The Positive Loop: How to Command the Stage
Why wait, for instance, for the audience to show that they believe in you? Instead, lead them to that conclusion. What I mean is, create a positive loop: When you broadcast (there's that word again) physically that you're in charge, that's the message they get. Listeners see authority in how you hold yourself and move, and they immediately have more faith in your abilities—which gives you confidence!
Here's the interesting process that's at work, which is why you can do this fairly easily: We know that when we feel an emotion, we show it physically. When we're sad, for instance, we cry; and when we're shocked, others can see it on our face. This emotion-body link works equally well in the opposite direction, however: if you smile, you actually feel better.
By starting with the physical, you acquire a powerful tool for setting up positive emotional states in yourself. "Be confident!" is an impossible directive. But "improve your posture, open up your chest area (an actor's secret), and strive purposely"? — You can do those things, and you should!
The Natural You and the Professional You
Here's another way to use physical expression to improve your professional talks and presentations: observe yourself when you're in the opposite camp, when you're not trying to be "all business."
For most of us, there's a strong disconnect between how we look and sound naturally, i.e., when we're not self-conscious and our guard is down, and how we present in our professional worlds. When we speak to family and friends about the things we're passionate about, for example, our movement, vocal energy, gestures, and facial expression are congruent and effective. It's the "natural" way you communicate.
If you're like most speakers, however, your energetic-and-genuine self tends to get ironed out, flattened, when you present. That's when you may become serious, business-like, and much less demonstrative. Actually, you become far less interesting.
So, with a piece of your consciousness, pay attention to the Natural You in the moments when you're really at your best. All of the tools of expressiveness I mentioned above—stance, facial expressions, gestures, and vocal approach—are physically produced. Tap into your normal and spontaneous physical expression, and again, you will show and generate self-assurance.
Voicing Emotions to Move Listeners
Now let's zero in more on your sound. Your voice is the most powerful tool you own as a speaker to get audiences to share what you're thinking and feeling. Words and data can't do it. Gestures and movement can to some extent; but they're blunt instruments that can't come close to the intimate ways you can influence others vocally.
So here's the last physical link that needs to be established: the one between your thoughts and emotions and how each is expressed vocally. Think about that for a minute and you'll understand how profound this connection is, and why it's a vital tool of succeeding with the people you speak to in more than one dimension.
And yes, it's another way of using the physical to appear confident. Since the voice is produced physically, if there was ever an apt meaning of body "language," this is it. Understand that you need to link your body with your thoughts and feelings and how you express them vocally, and listen to actors and audiobook narrators to hear how it's done. You'll have the last tool in place for speaking emotionally, powerfully, and confidently.
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