George Mullens

Jan 09, 2019

Public Speaking 103

Body Language

The use of body language and delivery are two fundamental qualities that turn a good public speaker into an excellent one. I have personally been of the belief that you can have the best facts, statistics and quotes, but if your delivery and body language is poor, then an audience will quickly become disinterested. Ultimately the best public speakers are able to captivate the attention of the audience. If you whisper your speech or have a closed off body language then an audience is not able to feel related or just generally interested in what you have to say. 


In this article we will be analysing the key elements of body language followed by delivery in the next article.

Body Language
Body language compromises your facial expressions, gestures and stance. These are all vital when an audience if listening to your speech. If you present strong and positive body language, then it automatically gives you more credibility and confidence as a public speaker. The first thing to consider is the use of hands and gestures. Do not hide your hands in pockets or held behind your back. Indeed, hands can be used to put emphasis on a certain point in your speech by pointing or by opening up your body. Public speakers like theatre actors can use their hands to make themselves appear bigger in front of an audience.

Similarly, your stance is vital. How you stand in front of an audience determines a large part of how an audience can perceive you. Are you crouched over your speech reading directly into a piece of paper? Are you leaning side to side constantly or are you moving your feet around whilst standing? Many of these elements of stance are often not considered. Next time you give a speech, consider how you’re moving subconsciously, even experienced public speakers do not necessarily consider how they should be standing. A balanced stance with weight even distributed tends to engage a speaker more with an audience. Constant movement can result in distraction as the audience ends up analysing why you might be moving around too much in your place. 


The final element of public speaking that can be used to convey the feelings of a speaker towards an audience are facial expressions. Consider where you are looking when speaking publicly. Are you looking towards the ground? Are you looking up at the ceiling? Or are you looking at each member of your audience. President Lincoln would famously remain silent for a few minutes at the start of each speech to captivate the audience, the use of silence in addition to looking at the audience intensely gave an additional gravitas to his speeches. Unfortunately, with the pressure that an audience exerts on most people, your face can easily become solid and serious. An easy way to avoid this issue is to smile at the start of your speeches whilst greeting your audience.

Conclusion
Body language is absolutely essential when speaking publicly. Being open, firm and looking directly at your audience is vital when considering how your audience will perceive your speeches. If you are looking down at the floor then your voice is automatically going down towards your feet and it’ll be more difficult for the audience to hear what you are saying. Aim to look towards your audience and to particularly avoid reading your speech off word for word so that you can place your focus on the audience. Ultimately as stated in previous editions of this series, your objective is to get your audience or in the MUN case, other delegates on your side of the argument, therefore careful attention needs to be placed towards your fellow audience members through confident body language.