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Polished your presentation deck and script to a shine? Refining your body language can make a great difference, too. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania states that 70% of non-verbal communication is based on body language, 23% is tone of voice, and 7% comprises spoken words. Your audience doesn’t only focus on what you say. They also interpret what you really mean by looking at how you project and behave onstage. So when you prepare, concentrate not only on your content, but also on the first impression you give based on your looks and movement. Here are four practices you, as a presenter, should avoid: 1. Lack of Eye Contact What Can Go Wrong: Imagine speakers who never look up from their scripts but drone on and on. Would you feel like those presenters care that you’re sitting there, trying to give them the time of day? An American psychologist Eckhard Hess discovered that the dilation of pupil size shows interest, while contraction shows disinterest. This means simply looking at your audience can establish a connection with them. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally glancing at your notes during your performance. Even great presenters rely on their scripts to keep them on track. However, reading through your notes means you look less at your audience. You miss out on meaningfully, warmly interacting with them because you look like you’re talking to a wall. How to Fix It: Always remember that you are interacting with the crowd, not with your notes or the screen. Dan Rockwell, a professional coach, speaker, and author of Leadership Freak, has been giving presentations since he was sixteen years old. On eye contact, he advises: “Use the three count rule for eye contact. Look at someone on the left and count to three. Look to the middle and count to three, and so on. Don’t scan the audience. Scanners disconnect.” 2. Fidgeting What Can Go Wrong: In 2005, the University of Hertfordshire discovered that fidgeting sharpens people’s memory by lowering cortisol, a stress hormone. Stress hormones are triggered whenever people encounter fearful situations, such as when they’re lying. When somebody tells a lie, they become emotionally aroused, and certain changes happen in their body. Being unable to keep still makes you look like you’re making up your presentation as you go along. To make matters worse, fiddling with your notes, pulling at your collar, or gripping the corner of your lectern places your audience’s attention on your hands rather than on your presentation. How to Fix It: Leil Lowndes, a motivational speaker and communications expert, recommends letting the moment pass. “Let your nose itch, your ear tingle, or your foot prickle. Do not fidget, twitch, wiggle, squirm, or scratch.” If you can’t help but move, record a video of yourself speaking. Then, review your recording and think about what happened during the times you fidgeted. Did you forget your script? Were you unsure about your point? Was there a technical error? Identify what triggered your fidgeting, and replace them with less obvious habits. For example, instead of tapping your foot on the ground, try stepping forward when making a point. 3. Standing at Attention What Can Go Wrong: Imagine presenters who speak without moving their bodies, like soldiers waiting for a command. People tend to pay more attention to moving objects rather than stationary objects because kinetic motion stimulates their visual senses. Walking around the stage and getting near the crowd shows that you want a personal connection with them, letting you interact with them naturally and conversationally. However, moving too much can have the same effects as fidgeting: making your audience focus more on your movement than on what you’re saying. How to Fix It: Remember to move purposely, not restlessly. Joel Osteen, Houston’s Lakewood Church senior pastor and motivational speaker, often walks around the stage to engage the congregation, especially when discussing personal matters. Instead of hiding behind a lectern, he makes sure that he’s able to connect with the worshipers by maximizing his stage presence. If you’ll be tackling three main points, your position should also be in three stage areas. For example, if one portion of your speech describes past experiences, stand on the right side of the stage. When you proceed to current situations, move to the center. Once you talk about the future, stand on the left portion of the stage. 4. Inappropriate Facial Expressions What Can Go Wrong: Your face is what your audience will notice at first glance. Smiling helps you build rapport and connect with your audience as it makes them feel that you appreciate their presence, while also making you feel less anxious. It also reflects your passion about the topic, showing audiences that you enjoy delivering your presentation. However, this doesn’t mean you should be smiling 24/7 during your pitch. For example, when discussing issues or telling tragic stories, your countenance should reflect what you feel inside. How to Fix It: Jim Carrey, who you know best as a Canadian-American actor and screenwriter, is known for making various facial expressions in his films. Before you think it comes naturally for him, it doesn’t – he spends several hours rehearsing in front of a mirror. Watch yourself while you practice to see if what you say matches your face. Identify what parts of your pitch require specific facial expressions. Do you need to appear happy, sad, aggressive, or intense? Try a gentle smile for positive, encouraging topics. However, use a neutral expression when tackling negative, sensitive, and serious matters to show professionalism and respect. Get Rid of These Habits Once and for All Though a perfect deck and script can help create a great presentation, they’re only parts of the equation. Most of your pitch relies on you, the speaker. The only way you can remove these bad habits is by constantly practicing. Professional speaker Lenny Laskowski states that being knowledgeable about your content and delivery enables you to succeed because you’re confident enough to present. Practice increases your confidence. If you know you’re well-prepared, optimism follows. Learn to positively engage your audience with eye contact, build rapport and connections by moving around the stage, and emphasize your point by using proper facial expressions. When cleaning up your presentation skills, don’t miss a spot. Polish your body language, and your whole pitch, to a shine. References “The Art of Communication.” Aurora Employee Assistance Program, 2008. Accessed July 15, 2015. Gallo, Carmine. “The 10 Worst Presentation Habits.” BusinessWeek, n.d. Accessed July 15, 2015. “Eye Reading (Body Language).” Psychologist World, n.d. Accessed July 15, 2015. “Secrets to Great Presentations.” Leadership Freak, June 18, 2014. Accessed July 15, 2015. “Virtual Speech Coach.” Virtual Speech Coach, n.d. Accessed July 22, 2015. “Why Do We Fidget?” BBC Focus Magazine, July 18, 2011. Accessed July 22, 2015. “Is Your Scratch Louder Than Your Speech.” Morunda, n.d. Accessed July 22, 2015. “Facial Expressions.” Facial Expressions, n.d. Accessed July 22, 2015. “The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication in Professional Interpretation.” AIIC, January 19, 2005. Accessed July 27, 2015. Gallo, C. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Groß, Till. “4 Public Speaking Tips from a TEDx Speaker with 550,000 Views.” Comfort Zone Crusher, May 4, 2015. Accessed July 24, 2015. Laskowski, Lenny. “Five Ways to Make Your Body Speak.” LJL Seminars, n.d. Accessed July 22, 2015. London, Bianca. “Could Asymmetrical Gestures and Eye Flutter Reveal He’s Cheating? Lie Detection Expert Reveals the Top Ten Signs Which Indicate Someone is Lying to You.” Mail Online, April 22, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2015. Mitchell, Olivia. “The 5 Bad Habits of Experienced Speakers.” Speaking About Presenting, June 2, 2011. Accessed July 14, 2015. Reeder, Bernie. “The Science of Selling Yourself: 3 Nonverbal Ways to Gain Trust Comments.” Yesware, November 4, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2015. Young, Graham. “To Move or Not to Move – When Presenting.” Walk the Talk, October 10, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2015. Author Bio Rick Enrico is the CEO and Founder of SlideGenius, Inc., a global presentation design agency. He regularly publishes expert presentation tips on the SlideGenius blog. He currently oversees an experienced team of designers, software developers, and marketing professionals that specialize in creating custom corporate presentations and cloud publishing applications. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

When you present, your audience doesn’t only focus on what you say, but how you behave. When you prepare, be aware of the first impression you give based on your looks and movement.

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