Support Your Presentation with Believable Posture
You've prepared the presentation down to the last detail. You examined the A/V equipment, and it's operational. Your hairstyle, clothing, and attitude give the right impression. Your voice and facial expressions will connect you with the audience. Can anything possibly interfere with your delivery?
Yes, posture along with underlying gestures and outward appearance will either detract from communication or emphasize a speaker's credibility.
Just think of Al Gore. Whether you like his politics or not, you can't help but notice that his wooden mannerisms hinder his ability to connect with people. A stiff spine and jerky movements take away the audience's attention. Natural, full body movements bring people closer to the message.
Follow these three tips so your body language matches your words. Your audiences will feel more comfortable with you and be more absorbed by your delivery.
A Heart-Centered Poise Helps You to Connect with Others
You know the quote by John Maxwell? "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Caring is about feeling, not thinking. If your attention is focused on your mind, remembering what to say, wondering if the audience is listening, then you can't connect. It takes being in your body, present with your sensations to relate to others.
Next time you meet someone, stay in your head. Notice how impersonal the connection is, the handshake mechanical. But when you're heart-centered as you meet someone, you'll feel more like you know them (and vice versa), and the handshake can more easily meld into a hug, if appropriate.
Before you get on the stage, feel your chest and connect with your own heart and feelings (yes, even the nervous ones). Breathe deeply and let your heart lead the way into your presentation.
Modified Upright Posture Provides a More Natural Stance
Posture underscores the integrity of your words. An upright, relaxed stance is pretty rare, since it isn't taught. Do you think the correct way to stand up is to pull your shoulders up and back? That creates strain in the spine and tires the body quickly. It also poses an additional problem for speakers, because it limits the movement of arms and gestures.
See if this way isn't easier: bend your knees a bit and let your torso drop forward. Then press your feet into the floor and grow to your full height. When you need to regain good posture, focus on the connection between your feet and ground and grow tall from the bottom up. This method builds core strength, leaves the upper body relaxed, and is sustainable for up to an hour.
Smooth Body Flow Links to Smooth Word Flow
Disconnected and uncoordinated body movements are the physical equivalent of stuttering and unnecessary filler words. As your ideas flow into each other, so should your movements. This level of grace starts in the spine with easy articulation and balanced strength and flexibility. Here's an exercise that will relieve stiffness so you can glide as you speak.
Sit or stand and sway your spine from side to side. Notice where the movement is easy and where it is stiff. Stop and start again from an inflexible place; let it lead the movement. Continue to sway and bring movement, even if it's awkward or small, into the tight places. See what it takes to get the unyielding places to participate. In just a few minutes, your spine will free itself and you’ll be able to flow as smoothly as your words.
As you prepare to connect with your audience, sway as you mentally prepare. Then get grounded and tall. Finally, connect and lead with your heart so you will win your audiences’. At a minimum, you should have a more satisfying speaking experience.
The exercises in this article were adapted from Undulation Exercises and Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation, www.undulationexercise.com. (1) Tree Tops and (2) Easy Sway.
Anita Boser is the author of Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation, a book with 52 undulation exercises, and a Professional Structural Integrator. For more information or to see undulation videos, visit www.undulationexercise.com
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