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Last updated on 12/2/21

Master your body language

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When you speak in public, the first thing people notice is your body and how it occupies space, how you move and whether or not you are at ease.

This is about your body language.

One generally says of people who master their body language that they have charisma.

But what does one do to have charisma?

Make no mistake: people who seem like born orators have thoroughly trained themselves.

There is no secret, to be good at it you need to train and train – over and over again.

👩🏻 (Laurène): Every time I need to speak in public, whether it’s for a lecture or recording a video course, I always prepare for several hours. And, as often as possible, I have a coach with me, especially when the stakes are high.

To develop charisma, you need to work on three essential points: centring (or posture), gesture and facial expression.

Find your center

Speaking in front of an audience while standing can prove physically difficult; more so if you are stressed. If you're not used to it, you might find an uncomfortable position, get tired and shift your body weight from one leg to the other. You stand with your weight on your right leg for a few seconds and, when the position becomes uncomfortable, you change legs. And so, you shift interminably from one leg to the other.

As a result, you'll give the audience the impression that you're unstable, uneasy, and even clumsy if it's exaggerated. You'll also tire yourself out!

To correct that, you need to be well-centered on the floor.

What does being well centered mean? 

To be centered on the floor gives you more stability and a feeling of greater solidity, of power.

The ideal position consists of having the legs a little further apart than the width of the hips, while remaining supple. Your legs aren’t stretched; on the contrary, your knees are unlocked.

Find your grounding for better stability.
Find your grounding for better stability.

Also, you need to keep your back and head straight, drawn towards the sky as if an invisible thread is drawing you upwards. That way you won’t slouch.

Assuming the position may feel unnatural.

Once you are well centered on the floor, concentrate on your movements.

👨🏻 (Stéphane): Tell yourself that your legs are like the roots of the tree planted firmly in the ground. Your pelvis is like the trunk, and your arms the branches; they are supple but remain toned. Finally, your hands are like the leaves of the tree; graceful as they punctuate your gestures with precision.

Stay rooted to the ground, let your arms be soft and active, your hands decisively accentuate your gestures.
Stay rooted to the ground, let your arms be soft and active, your hands decisively accentuate your gestures.

Manage your gestures

If you have space, you can walk. This is often the case if you are lecturing on a stage or making a presentation.

Instead, simply cross from the right side of the stage to the left after a few minutes. Then after a while, do the same thing again in the other direction while staying centered.

What’s the point of doing that?

It’s useful from several points of view: to change perspective, get your breath, but above all to mark the transition between two parts of your talk. Indeed, in the audience’s mind, it marks a change, which will then help them in following the thread of your story.

Now, let’s come to our movements.

Good body language is:

  1. Open:

    • Your gestures are made towards other people: the palms of your hands face upwards, towards the audience.

    • Your arms make full, rounded gestures, not closed ones (you can’t keep your arms folded).

  2. Supple:

    • Your arms aren’t glued to your body — take up some space, spread your arms a few centimeters (but, not too much).

    • Your arms or hands shouldn’t hide your face when you move. Your arms aren’t there to protect you; you’re not a boxer. They’re used to make a point come alive, to illustrate it.

  3. Precise:

    • Your movements are full, but not exaggerated (Don't spread your fingers too wide). This is even more important if your audience is limited. Suit your range of motion to the size of the room and your audience.

    • Your hands express as well as possible what you are saying with your mouth. Avoid distracting gestures, like clicking a pen, which tends to irritate the audience and opt for occasional gestures that embody key moments of your talk.

Your body language and the way you move is important: your gestures should be broad and rounded and open to others; your face should always be visible.
Your body language and the way you move is important: your gestures should be broad and rounded and open to others. Your face should always be visible.

Communicate with your face too

Smile, you’re on camera!

There are two aspects to smiling... 😶

1.      Smiling with your mouth. 🙂 (OK, so far it’s all going well), and...

2.     Smiling with your eyes. 😊

If your eyes don’t smile, it’s because your smile is forced. This will betray you: it’s a sign that you aren’t at ease.

To help you, think of the energy that you want to communicate and the emotions you want to elicit from your audience.

If YOU have been asked to speak in public, it’s because you have something special to offer. Think about it and emphasize it! Are you passionate about your subject? Then be enthusiastic and communicate that to your audience!

Look at your audience

You need to connect with your audience by looking at them and by including them. Avoid ignoring them by staring at the floor.

What should I look at in the audience?

Don’t fix your gaze on a single person the whole time. You are not just addressing that one person and they will feel overwhelmed and embarrassed by that extended gaze.

Neither should you stare into the distance, that will give the impression that you are exhausted.

Include the entire audience by sweeping your gaze across the room (from left to right, then from right to left, but also up and down, if the room is large), resting on several points. To do this, you can, for example, follow a W pattern.

Rest your attention for a few seconds on one person, then pass to another and so on until you reach the furthest point of the audience. When you reach the end, sweep the audience in the other direction. You can also change the direction of the W.

Let’s recap!

  • To develop your charisma, work on your grounding, body language, and facial expression:

    • Keep your body grounded, stand legs apart, slightly wider than hip-width with soft knees to help you gain stability, solidity, and power.

    • Use the space between ideas or transitions between two sections of your speech to move around. Open, soft, and precise gestures are preferable. For a sincere smile, use your mouth and your eyes.

    • Include your audience by connecting to them with your gaze.

Body language makes up 50% of your communication. Work on these exercises when you are practicing for the big day.

Having said that, although body language is important, the way you express yourself in spoken language is just as important, and that's what we will be looking at in the next chapter.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement