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Speaking of Speaking: What’s Your Body Language Really Saying?

Upon returning from a run the other day my wife suggested, in rather non-diplomatic terms, that I was not the great smelling guy she had come to know and love.

As I replayed this touching moment in the shower, I was reminded of the numerous messages our bodies send out. So if you want to avoid a real stinker of a program and deliver a world class presentation every time, keep in mind some of the bigstock-Weird-businessman-doing-the-mo-47902346non-verbal ways we deliver messages:

1. Eye contact. Speaking is a conversation; we tell the audience we’re listening to them by maintaining warm eye contact. Make it a goal to include everyone with your eyes, especially the immediate front, far back and extreme corners where folks sometimes feel left out.

2. Facial expressions. According to the book, “The Human Face,” we can create more than 7,000 different expressions, yet the average adult speaker uses only a handful of these. Now you needn’t become a rubberized Jim Carrey clone, but you do need to think about how your facial expressions compliment your messages, add character to your stories or can add some humor. Think about how your expressions effect your tone of voice. And remember, audiences often mirror a speaker, so think about the reflection you want to cast.

3. Gestures. Are your gestures complimenting your messages or distracting the audience from receiving them? Try exaggerating a gesture to emphasize a point or to add some humor to a story (I call these “jester gestures”). If you’re being recorded onto the big screen for a large audience, however, keep gestures and movements in tight for the camera. And above all else, keep gestures sincere and authentic.

4. Body movements. Are you ready for a trip to the morgue or are you conveying a sense of energy and enthusiasm through your movements and posture? Are you using the lectern as shield from rioting fruit-throwers or are you getting out in front of the audience and showing them all of you? Conversely, are you an overactive monkey (as I was once accused of being) hopping about the stage? Watch yourself on video with the sound off to analyze some of your non-verbal language.

5. Appearance. What messages are your hair style (if, sigh, you’re lucky enough to have one), dress, and accessories (jewelry, watches, puppets, capes etc.) sending? Is your overall appearance enhancing your credibility and supporting your messages, or is it acting as a barrier between you and your audience?

Avoid leaving your audiences with a foul odor; instead, shower them with sincere, positive and powerful body-talk that reinforces those sweet-smelling, world class messages. And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go towel off.

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011.   This article may be reprinted with permission of the author.

Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, trainer and author of “Putting Humor to Work” and “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael at . For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to and Michael helps workplaces tap into their sense of humor for more success and less stress.


Copyright © 2018, Michael Kerr. All rights reserved.
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