Creative Leadership

Why Body Language Matters for Public Speakers

I went to an event this week where the keynote speaker simply stood at the podium and read his speech from his notes. It reminded me of a college professor I had during a summer class at the University of North Carolina who walked into the class, opened his notebook, and read the lecture. At the end, he closed the notebook and walked out. Both cases are examples of people who don’t have a clue about what speaking in public is all about.

Make some notes here readers, because whether you speak in front of crowds, lead a team at work, teach a Sunday School class, or lecture your kids, you need to understand what makes a great speech, lecture, or sermon work. Most of us think that content is the most important thing for speakers, but the truth is, no matter how great your content, if it’s delivered in a mind-numbing way, it won’t matter because the audience will turn you off. On the contrary, content, vocal delivery, body language, movement – all contribute to a memorable experience for the listener.

Please don’t just stand up and just read your speech. You might as well make copies and hand them out at the door because it will be much more helpful and far less agonizing. Here’s the thing to remember – during a speech in a public place, your body movements matter enormously. You should be giving a physical interpretation of your content as you speak. Move around, use your hands to illustrate your points, raise and lower your voice, tell a story, and captivate your audience.

It’s not about flash and it’s not about impressing anyone. It’s about making your talk come alive visually. Remember that we remember far more about what we see than what we hear, so take as much time preparing your physical expression as you do your content and see what happens.

Your audience will be most appreciative.

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8 Comments

  1. Yes, Phil you are right. However, let me state the extreme opposite which is often encountered in broadcast religion. Suppose I know some shenanigans, learnt from two generations of crowd-control Nuero-Linguistic Programming. To wit: I move to the left and right of the stage… as a pendulum.

    This is like the hypnotist’s watch chain. To the left and right I go…. Now, I ADD something! To the left: I spacial-anchor a bad feeling (how many of you have had cancer? Then I break-logic… I don’t count ’em!)… Then to the right I spacial-anchor a good feeling… I say, BUT GOD IS GOOD! AMEN? AMEN? AMEN?) I say this as if it is an Einstein moment, though it is a drearily repeated mantra. I force the crowd to confirm my spacial anchor to the right.

    So Phil, I never tell the crowd what I’m up to… which is hidden crowd-control, partial hypnotism en mass. I continue to spacial-anchor a bad feeling to the left. Then spacial-anchoring a good feeling to the right. BECAUSE THEN>>> I ask for a donation and guess where I stand? Of course, to the RIGHT! Then >>> I say that the sorry miscreants who don’t donate, they won’t enjoy “the blessing!” Of course, when I say this negative thing…. I stand to the left, in the spacial-anchored bad feeling spot. (MOO-HA! HA! HA!, I laugh as I touch the corner of my mouth with my little pinky! Where is mini-ME?)

    Lastly, I NEVER TELL THE CROWD how I have shot out their lights of discernment. I have prepared them for the next MYSTIC TYRANT, be he an educator, a politician or another lousy superstar preacher.

    THAT… is the problem with moving around too much when speaking. It shows a LACK of respect for the audience, and mutual dedication to self-restraint, which is liberty. Moving around a lot can enable a wolf-shepherd to dumb-down his audience, make them more pennable, more shearable, more primitive.

    Another rule for public speaking is DON’T GET THE AUDIENCE JACKED UP CRAZY. Some of the most popular broadcast preachers do this at conventions. It is INSANITY. Just more MYSTIC TYRANNY. Perfect preparation for political mystic tyranny.

    Jesus sat when he spoke to crowds. Think about that. He sat. He was dedicated to self-restraint. He worshipped God in spirit and truth, and seemed to avoid the left-right hamster-pipe preaching of today’s fad.

    Interestingly, the same spacial-anchoring left-to-rlight can be done in a conversation by simply touching the other fellow’s elbow, left to right! Ever had that done to you? CREEPY. Now you know, the same CREEPY feeling will be discerned by you when a crowd-control speaker is doing it on stage!

  2. I went to an event this week where the keynote speaker simply stood at the podium and read his speech from his notes. It reminded me of a college professor I had during a summer class at the University of North Carolina who walked into the class, opened his notebook, and read the lecture.

    Wasn’t there a Sixties “deadpan comic” comedian named Pat Paulsen who used the same shtick for a lot of his comic effect? I vaguely remember one of his routines where he lectured in a deadpan monotone about how “very excited” he was.

  3. Allow me to borrow from Shakespeare and add a little twist, “All the world’s a stage and the best speakers get the best lighting.” They also get the best recall.

    Great speaking is hard work. Engaging and enrapturing your audience takes planning, craft and finesse. It rarely graces those who aren’t wiling to perspire to inspire, and then help their audience aspire. Perfect body language wraps up the research, expertise, humor, relevant message and more into the gift package a presenter gives the audience. Yul Brynner understood the gift. Martin Gottfried knew the audience could tell which art was legit and which was a sham, or to modernize that, spam, or if is a slam dunk for that matter.

    Creativity, ingenuity and impact need to be experienced, not merely observed. For the audience to experience something, and for them to do that, they need to be engaged. They won’t be engaged if the speaker doesn’t appear to be.

    Poor speakers view the podium as a safe barrier. Great speakers view it as an obstacle to relationship.

  4. Because ~ I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs ~ I’m tossing up punch lines that were never there ~ Over my shoulder a piano falls ~ Crashing to the ground ~ I’m breaking through ~ I’m bending spoons ~ I’m keeping flowers in full bloom ~ I’m looking for answers from the great beyond ~ so of course my body language is paramount!

  5. A great article with advice that every public speaker should hear and follow. Very few things are worse than a speaker that stands in one place and reads his speech to you.

    I used to be “one of those”. With over 30 years of public speaking experience, I like to think I have improved.

    Your post inspired me to share on my blog a rather embarrassing(but funny)speaking experience that I had while in college.

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing with us.

    allen

  6. I agree body language is one of the essential things in presenting effectively in public. It can make or break your presentation thus, use it effectively in a way that you make your presentation feel more alive.

     

  7. With over 30 years of public speaking experience, I like to think I have improved. Your post inspired me to share on my blog a rather embarrassing(but funny)speaking experience that I had while in college. I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing with us. allen

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