5 Simple Body Language Tips For Speaking Up

Have you ever wondered why some leaders seem so powerful and others . . .  well, weak and timid come to mind (those words don’t paint a pretty picture, do they?). Last week I led a 2-day workshop on creating partnerships. It’s a full-on highly interactive workshop, with lots of learning occurring. One focus of the workshop was to take a ‘stand’ on becoming a better leader. (A stand is something you commit to). At the end of the workshop, the participants were asked to walk to the front of the room and powerfully declare what their stand, as a leader, was. (By the way, they all knew each other and had been together for several days of learning over the past couple of months.) Here’s the kicker though: When declaring their stand, several participants: •    Fidgeted, •    Stuck their hands in their pockets, •    Started speaking before they were at the front of the room!

As a result, their stand meant nothing because their body language said “Don’t believe me!”

I get it, speaking in front of a group can be intimidating. And most of us have to do it at some point in our career. So here’s what you need to know:

When your words and actions are incongruent, people don’t believe what you are saying!

You don’t need me to tell you but I will . . . ‘that’s not someone people want to listen to.’ Good News! You can become a better leader and speaker by making small changes to improve your body language.

Here are 5 simple and powerful tips:

1. Stand Still . . . Really Still

· Especially when you are making an important point

· Fidgeting makes you look untrustworthy

2. Relax Your Hands at Your Sides

•    Or use them to enhance your point

•    Whatever you do, get them out of your pockets!

•    You don’t want the audience to think you are more interested in your car keys or loose change then the point you are trying to make.

3.  Pause BEFORE You Speak

•    As you stand still (see tip #1), this pause creates anticipation for the audience and allows you to rehearse your first line or to breath and relax

•    You can use it before you make an announcement, important point or in response to a question

•    When you pause before you speak or answer a question, it shows thoughtfulness and understanding

4.  Lock Your Eyes on Your Listeners

•    But not in a creepy way

•    Look at all of them, as you stand and pause (see how all the tips are blending together? Clever, huh?)

•    In the book “Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln” author James Humes says, “Stand, stare and command your audience and they will bend their ears to listen.”

5.  Finally, Use a Strong Steady Voice

•    That means making your statement and dropping your voice at the end.

•    No Upspeak (not sure what that is, take a quick read on one of my previous articles “Unconscious Confidence Killer”)

These are simple yet powerful tips and in my observation, tips that many people can benefit from. Go ahead, put them into practice and notice the results.

Enjoy, Learn, Share! 



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    Leasa Knechtel

    Associate Director at the Centre for Professional Development, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

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    Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

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    Toronto General Hospital

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    Saskatoon Health Region


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