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10 Body Language Tips to Increase Your Success

10 Body Language Tips to Increase Your Success
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According to Peter Economy, research shows as much as 60 to 90 percent of how we communicate with others is nonverbal. Body language, therefore, is very important.

Our body language hugely affects the impression we make on others. Slouchy posture with your head hung down can make you appear lazy or timid. A weak handshake can make others think you lack confidence. Poor eye contact can make you seem uninterested in the conversation.

The way you communicate with others nonverbally can totally wreck or drastically improve your chances of success.

Here are 10 body tips to increase your success.

1. Master the perfect handshake

Create an excellent first impression by mastering the handshake. You want a perfect handshake: firm and confident, but not uncomfortably firm where you’re squeezing their fingers too hard. You also don’t want it limp like a dead fish. According to the American Management Association, handshake research by the Income Center for Trade Shows found that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands. This article states that touching someone on the hand, arm, or shoulder for a very brief moment – just 1/40 of a second – creates a human bond.

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2. Make eye contact, nod occasionally, and lean in

It is important for others to know you are listening and you care about what they’re saying. Make eye contact when you meet them, and throughout your conversation. Just don’t stare. That can be viewed as aggressive. Leaning in shows your’re engaged in the conversation. Nodding your head lets the other person know you understand.

Avoid multitasking during a conversation. Checking your phone for text messages, looking around at other people, and looking at the clock can signal your disinterest in the conversation. Focus intently on the other person and what he or she is saying for the entire duration of the conversation.

3. Demonstrate proper posture

Don’t sit incredibly rigidly, but sit with proper posture. You’ll come across as more confident and competent. Plus, it’s better for your back and improves how you feel about yourself.

4. Smile slowly

Smile when the other person smiles. Don’t plaster a fake, constant smile on your face during the entire meeting, but smile and laugh genuinely. This will help keep a positive tone, shows you’re engaged in the conversation, and makes you seem more warm and friendly.

This article has tips from Leil Lowndes, author of the book How to Talk to Anyone, on great smiling techniques. “Don’t flash an immediate smile,” Lowndes recommends. Instead, pause, look at the person’s face, and then have a flooding smile, a “big, warm, responsive smile flood over your face and overflow into your eyes.” Delaying your smile for a second, according to Lowndes, adds more depth and richness to how people perceive you.

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6. Position your feet appropriately

Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman has done extensive research on body language in the workplace. She advises people to watch the position of their feet when interacting with others. She is quoted here with excellent thoughts about starting and ending conversations:

“When you approach 2 people talking, you will be acknowledged in one of two ways. If the feet of your two colleagues stay in place and they twist only their upper torsos in your direction, they don’t really want you to join the conversation. But if their feet open to include you then you know that you are truly invited to participate.”

“Whenever you are speaking with a co-worker who seems to be paying attention, and whose upper body is angled toward you, but whose legs and feet have turned toward the door – realize that the conversation is over. Her feet are telling you she wants to leave. Foot positions are revealing even if someone’s legs are crossed.”

Be mindful of your stance during a conversation and also be aware of the position of the other person’s feet.

7. Display cultural sensitivity

Be aware of cultural practices of the person you are meeting. Body language customs that are normal, accepted, and welcoming in some areas of the world are considered very rude in other places.

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8. Uncross your arms and legs for better memory

Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman discusses interesting research by Allan and Barbara Pease: A group of people listening to a lecture with arms and legs uncrossed remembered 38% more information than a group in the same lecture who listened with arms and legs crossed. Make sure you sit with arms and legs unfolded to improve your retention. Also, if you are the speaker and your audience has arms and legs crossed, take a break or get them to move around.

9.  Cut out the fidgeting

When you wiggle, squirm, and fidget, the audience may think you’re anxious or lying, according to Business Insider.

10. Assume a power pose before important meetings

In Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk,Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, she teaches about fascinating experiments she conducted related to body language. The results were astonishing. She had people stand in “high-power” poses (standing with legs apart and arms streched wide open overhead, or sitting in a chair leaning back with feet propped up on a desk and hands behind head). Her research found that assuming one of these expansive poses for just two minutes increased people’s testosterone levels and decreased their cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This led to feeling more powerful and having more tolerance for risk.

She discusses how your body language can change you, and advises us:

Fake it until you become it.

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Take some time to watch her Ted Talk. It can literally change your life.

Do you have other helpful body language tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interesting topic!

Featured photo credit: Handshake man – women/Flazingo Photos via flickr.com

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Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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