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Is Body Language Sabotaging Your Presentations?

by Susan Morgan on May 21, 2008

Part of delivering a successful presentation, one where your message is heard and remembered, comes from paying attention to mannerisms (some you might not even be aware of) that distract the audience from what you’re saying.

A few no-no’s?

  •       Gripping or leaning on the podium
  •       Tapping your fingers
  •       Biting or licking your lips
  •       Playing with jewelry or change in your pockets
  •       Frowning
  •       Adjusting your hair or clothes

When all eyes are on you, it’s easy to do some of these things without even realizing it. The trouble is, they make you look ill at ease, and take the focus off your message. One of the best ways to assess your body language and gestures during a presentation is the magic (some would say horror) of videotape. 

While it might be painful to watch, this is a must if you want to see what your audience does.

Once you have a tape, watch it first with sound and picture so you get a general impression of your presentation. Write a word or two that describes the overall impact you feel, and be honest. 

Next watch the tape with the sound off, so you see only the gestures – note anything from the list above, or other motions you make that seem distracting.

Finally, run the presentation with the picture off and just sound so you hear your voice without a visual. While you might be cringing at having to sit through your performance so many times, this is the best way to see how others see you, and identify mannerisms that aren’t working.

Pay special attention to whether you do any of these things during your one-on-one conversations… at times when you feel comfortable and at ease. Chances are, your distracting gestures come from nerves and the discomfort of having so many eyes on you. What you want is to take the natural, relaxed body language you have when talking with a friend and use it during your presentations in front of clients or prospects.

Ah… easier said than done.

Yes it is, but with some honest scrutiny, a little effort and some regular practice you can identify the troublesome body language and work to eliminate if from your presentations. 



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Susan Morgan
Creative, passionate and detailed, Susan brings 25-plus years professional writing experience to a variety of projects — get-noticed direct mail pieces, full line print catalogs, eye-catching color brochures and totally original. search engine friendly company blogs, web pages and online articles.

A lifelong love of storytelling has also produced a full-length novel (Out of the Ordinary published by booklocker in 2007). Susan continues to indulge her passion for fiction with a growing number of short stories (one an award winner in 2004, another in 2008) and finalizing a second novel.

In her spare time Susan enjoys gardening, studying astrology and tarot, being with family and friends and keeping up with politics and current events.

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