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8 Business Body Language Tricks That Help Advance Your Career

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8 Business Body Language Tricks That Help Advance Your Career

Have you considered how your posture, facial expressions, and other physical movements can impact on your career? If not, it may be time to take a closer look at what your body language says about you as a professional.

Body language plays a crucial role in an individual’s success, regardless of his or her industry or position. Although their implementation and effects often seem subtle, positioning and movements work together to communicate specific attributes about a person. Thanks to the effective (or not so effective) use of body language, an unqualified professional can rise through the ranks, while the best minds in their fields may languish in middle management.

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Fortunately, anyone can learn how to leverage body language to their advantage, achieving better rapport and reputation among their colleagues.

Career-Boosting Qualities Communicated by Body Language

When it comes to influence in business, many factors contribute to how others perceive you. Choice of words, speaking volume and tone, and style of dress and grooming all offer cues (whether accurate or not) to others regarding your capabilities.

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However, one of the most important factors in shaping the perceptions of others is body language. By using movements, positioning, and facial expressions, you can project positive qualities such as:

  • Confidence. Business leaders throughout history have been known to project confidence, or a sense of being secure with their abilities or accomplishments. Therefore, if you wish to advance, employ body language to communicate confidence – even when you may not feel it.
  • Assertiveness. Managing high-level duties and personnel requires the ability to advance your own will – or the will of the company – in spite of resistance. Physically positioning yourself as someone not easily swayed by others shows the ability to influence and lead others.
  • Interest. Potential employers, colleagues, partners, and clients want to work with people who find the topics they discuss compelling. Showing an active interest in a conversation, lecture, or presentation indicates that you as a professional will use the same level of engagement in a future business relationship.
  • Openness to collaboration. Although assertiveness is key in leaders, so is the ability to cooperate with others to achieve common goals. Being able to identify and incorporate ideas from one or more outside parties helps you benefit from the diverse expertise of multiple sources, ultimately strengthening your strategies.
  • Intelligence. Succeeding in any industry requires a wide variety of knowledge, from education to life and professional experiences. Body language methods that communicate alertness and comprehension indicate a high I.Q. and show others you are mentally “cut out” for greater responsibility.
  • Empathy. Not only is I.Q. important to business intelligence; so is the E.Q., or emotional intelligence quotient. Professionals who decipher and respond to the emotional needs of themselves, customers, and colleagues stand the best chance of advancing in their fields.

By using body language techniques to communicate one or more of these qualities, you can raise yourself in the esteem of influential parties without speaking a word. As a result, you gain favor with the very professionals in the position to help advance your career.

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The 8 Most Effective Business Body Language Tricks

  1. Maintain eye contact and active listening techniques. Everyone wants to feel interesting and important, and engaging in active listening shows other individuals you see them in such a way. By keeping consistent eye contact with others when they speak, nodding occasionally, and using other indicators of rapt attention, you as a professional show respect for colleagues.
  1. Keep palms facing down. Those around you may not recognize this subtle move, but it will help shape their opinions of you all the same. When individuals place both of their hands palms down on tables, podiums, or counters while speaking with others, it projects a sense of authority and leadership.
  1. Act in synchrony. Imitating, or “mirroring,” the body language of others shows you align with them philosophically as well. Watch how others position themselves – whether sitting, standing, or walking, and mimic the way they cross their legs, lean forward or backward, gesticulate, or present facial expressions (smiles, frowns, etc.). The goal is not to “ape” the other individual, but to communicate a sense of cooperation.
  1. Strike a wide stance. While speaking to – or in front of – others, if you adopt a wide stance, it expands your diaphragm and projects your speaking voice more effectively. You also appear more impressive and influential, making you a business force to be reckoned with.
  1. Keep body language open and remove possible barriers. People take emotional cues from their conversation partners. Therefore, if you slouch, cross your arms, or otherwise appear “closed off” to others, audiences respond in kind. Keep body language relaxed and arms at your sides to show you’re open to those with whom you interact. In addition, avoid holding large items or allowing structures such as tables to separate you from one another.
  1. Smile sincerely. A convincing smile begins slowly and spreads throughout the rest of the face, especially the eyes. When approaching an individual of consequence, imagine greeting an old friend, and a genuine smile will emerge. These expressions communicate a sense of warmth and welcome, which encourages others to open up.
  1. Minimize movements. Standing woodenly in networking and business situations won’t do. However, squirming, scratching, wiggling, twitching, or fidgeting projects an appearance of nervousness or impatience. Gesticulating wildly while conversing also distracts from important points. The best policy is to incorporate natural, subtly controlled movements to enhance your points and mirror the body language of others.
  1. Develop a strong handshake. The tactile sensation of a handshake has made it the prevalent physical greeting in many cultures. However, perfecting this seemingly simple act takes some work. Avoid extremes in handshakes, whether overly limp or excessively firm. Instead, aim for a brief, natural-feeling grasp to communicate trust and respect.

Although implementing some of these techniques may feel more natural than others, practicing them at each business or social function helps you develop body language habits that will benefit you throughout your career. A promotion or raise may not happen immediately, but over time, strong body language greatly contributes to the success and scope of your professional life.

What body language techniques do you use to establish authority among your peers?

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Featured photo credit: LinkedIn via m.c.lnkd.licdn.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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