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Importance of Body Language in Presentations: +How to Use It Effectively

Read Time: 14 mins

To create a great presentation, you need more than an interesting topic or the perfect PowerPoint template. While those things are important, there is one more element that you need to pay attention to—your body language.

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Body language is important in a professional presentation. (Image source: Envato Elements)

While the presentation template you use is important, effective body language can make all the difference. Learning how to speak body language sometimes increases the chances of a successful presentation.

So, do you know how to stand during a presentation? Or even speak body language as a communication tool? It might feel like magic, but it doesn't have to be a mystery. In this guide, we’ll explain what body language. You'll also learn different types of body language and share body language speech tips that you can use right away.

What Is Body Language?

Body language is the way your body communicates without the use of words. It includes hand gestures, posture, facial expressions, and movements that send messages of their own. Body language can happen consciously and unconsciously.

For example, the way you’re sitting right now paired with your facial expression can tell others a lot about you. Based on your body language, they can tell whether you’re amused or concentrating hard. They can tell whether you’re approachable or if you’re having a bad day.

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The body language in this image says more than any caption could! (Image source: Envato Elements.)

If you’re in a discussion with someone and verbally agree with them, your body language will likely reveal your thinking. It may either confirm that you indeed agree with what is being said or betray you and tell others you don’t feel the same way.

In other words, your body language reveals the true story behind your words. But you can choose and control your body language with practice.

What Is the Importance of Body Language in Effective Presentations?

Using body language in presentations the right way can help you close more sales or win that pitch. Your body language can help you engage your audience and be confident and relaxed during your presentation. When you make eye contact and maintain a confident posture, your presentation is more likely to connect.

Bad body language can break your presentation. If you aren't aware of it, bad habits like slouching, no eye contact or arms on your hips can stunt your connection to the audience. The bottom line is: don't forget about the importance of body language in presentations.

12 Quick Tips Body Language Tips For Better Public Speaking

Now that we’ve covered what body language is and why it matters while giving a presentation, here are 12 tips that'll show you how to use body language:

1. Smile

Believe it or not, a smile is the most powerful tool you've got in your body language toolbox. A UC Berkeley study from 2011 found

“that smiling can be as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 Pounds Sterling in cash.”

What’s more, a smile can instantly change the perception we have about someone, not to mention it leads people to smile back at us.

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Smiling makes you seem more approachable. (Image source: Envato Elements)

While it’s true that smiling can be hard when you’re nervous, but keep in mind that a University of Kansas study found that smiling reduces stress.

So, the next time you're up there giving a presentation, don’t forget to smile every so often. Not only will you seem more approachable to your audience, but you'll relieve that stress you’re feeling as well.

2. Assume a Power Pose

Professional speaker Amy Cuddy shows that a power pose can help you establish authority. It's a great reminder that body language helps you come across as confident in your content. Check out the pose in action in the video below.

An example of a power pose is standing with your feet a shoulder-width apart, with hands on your hips, and chin lifted up.

But be careful not to overdo it unless you want to come off as intimidating. Reserve the power poses for crucial parts of your presentation.

3. Move Towards the Audience

As you think of how to stand during a presentation, focus on a positive connection with your audience. As you speak, you’ll likely have one or more key points that you want to emphasize.

As you stand and present, take a step towards your audience when you reach one of these ideas.

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Step forward to emphasize your key points. (Image source: Envato Elements.)
By stepping forward, you call visual attention to the point that you’re making. This builds a positive link with your audience by showing your interest in engaging them.

Effective body language public speaking tips often share this idea. To be effective, you must connect with your audience. You want each person to feel as though you’re talking directly to them. Take a literal step forward to achieve this goal! 

4. Don’t Slouch

Slouching makes you appear less confident and like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you're physically able to stand straight, then be sure to do so the next time you’re giving a presentation.

Stand tall with your shoulders pulled back and your stomach tucked in—you'll appear more confident and get a quick jolt of energy to boot.

5. Make Use of the Space

Another quick tip is to make use of the stage. Instead of standing still, move around the stage. By doing so, you'll send a message to your audience that you’re comfortable in your skin and confident about your topic matter. It'll also help you avoid fidgeting.

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Notice how the speaker has moved to the side, making use of the available space, rather than standing stiffly behind the podium. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Step out from behind the podium and let your audience see you. Move from one spot to another by taking a couple of steps, stopping, and then taking a few more steps.

Be natural as you move about though and avoid pacing. This will achieve the opposite effect and make you look nervous, not to mention you'll run out of breath. 

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Gesture

If you watch other presenters, you’ll notice one thing in common: great presenters use hand gestures as part of their delivery.

Hand gestures will help you stress what's important as well as express feelings and convictions. Your passion for the topic will become more apparent as our gestures are more lively when we're passionate about something.

Watch as speaker Graham Shaw makes effective use of hand gestures and visual aids to explain his ideas.

Hand gestures will show your audience a general sense of enthusiasm for the topic. Don't let them distract but incorporate them to show your engagement.

7. Speak Clearly

It’s not uncommon for nerves to get the better of you during the presentation. This might show up as stutters or mumbles, especially if there are tricky words involved.

Practicing your speech before the presentation is a must! It's a good way to make sure you feel comfortable delivering it and that your audience will be able to understand you.

Another tip that'll help you speak clearly and confidently is to imagine you’re delivering your presentation to your friends.

8. Minimize Nervous Habits

Arms crossed. Feet shuffling. Hands in your pockets. All these are visual tells that you’re nervous. Being nervous is natural! But it can lead to body language that distracts from your presentation. As you practice how to speak body language, work to cut these gestures. 

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Stand confidently and you’ll be more confident when you present! (Image source: Envato Elements.)

You’ll find that acting confident makes you more confident. Closing yourself off only enhances your feelings of shyness and worry. Effective body language means opening yourself up to engage with your audience.

9. Maintain Eye Contact

As you give your presentation, be sure to maintain eye contact with your audience and face them. Doing so will make them feel like you’re talking directly to them and will help keep them interested in your presentation.

Avoiding eye contact or turning your back to them will come off as rude and break the connection with the audience.

10. Don’t Forget Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can do wonders for keeping your audience interested and convincing them to believe in your cause. Your presentation isn't the time nor the place to bring on your poker face as you'll come off as a robot.

By letting your passion for your topic shine through with your facial expressions, your audience will be able to connect with you and trust you.

A word of caution though: don’t purposely go overboard with your facial expressions as this will come off as exaggerating and insincere.
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Facial expressions are one of the most important factors of body language to consider. Image source: Envato Elements)

You can practice your facial expressions in front of the mirror while you practice your speech. Or, record yourself with a camera and analyze your facial expressions later on.

11. Learn From Other Presenters

The last tip is to learn from other great presenters. You can study their body language and see how they use facial expressions, movement, and gestures to help them convey their ideas. A good place to start is to check out various TED Talks.

12. Remember to Breathe

While you’re on the stage, it can be all too easy to get caught up in your presentation and start to speak fast. But if you speak too fast, your audience will tune out because it'll be hard to follow you and you’ll run out of breath.

As you'll see in the Duke University commencement speech below, Apple CEO Tim Cook uses effective pauses. It helps him to build a steady, comfortable cadence when speaking.

That’s why it’s important to take a pause and remember to breathe. Breathing properly will also help you with your voice pitch and tone so you don’t sound strained and nervous.

Different Types of Body Language

By following the previous presentation body language tips, you'll deliver more effective presentations. But if you want to use those tips successfully, you need to be aware of different body language types.

1. Eye Contact

We mentioned earlier how important it is to maintain eye contact with your audience. Eye contact helps you establish a personal connection with your audience. Keep in mind that you don’t have to look each person in the eye as this can prove to be difficult with large audiences.

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Eye contact is an important part of body language. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Instead, focus your eye contact on a few people in different parts of the room will help you establish and maintain that contact. If they look at you, hold their gaze for a few seconds but avoid staring as long eye contact can make people feel uncomfortable.

Eye contact can also help you get a feel for how the audience is receiving your presentation. If you catch them yawning or trying to stifle a yawn or if they're looking around, it’s a sign they're losing interest in the presentation. Eye contact can help bring their attention back and re-engage them with the topic.

2. Head Movements

The way you move your head can signal a lot of different things. For example, when you lower your head, you send signals such as being tired or waiting for the right moment to speak.

Looking up at the ceiling or away may signal you’re bored or that you’re hiding something from your audience as you’re avoiding eye contact. Nodding signals agreeing with someone.

With the right head body language, you can engage your audience and convince them to agree with your idea.

3. Facial Expressions

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Facial expressions are another important part of body language. As you can see from the man's expression here, he's clearly happy and excited about something. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Facial expressions help us convey our emotions to others or mask them when we feel uncertain about the person we’re talking to. That’s why using facial expressions during a presentation is crucial.

When it comes to facial expressions, keep in mind that anyone can recognize the seven universal emotions described by Dr. Paul Ekman. One of those emotion is fear, and it can certainly pop up as a presenter. It's important to rehearse to help tame that fear.

Practice your speech and practice giving your presentation in front of a familiar audience first. Once you feel confident about your speech and performance, it’s less likely that fear will show up on presentation day.

4. Hand Gestures

According to a study by Vanessa Van Edwards, hand gestures are one of the five key patterns of all successful TED talks. In other words, the more you gesture with your hands, the better the likelihood of your presentation being a stellar success.

Use your hands to communicate different points in your presentation. The most effective way to do this is to use your fingers to count the points you’re explaining.  

5. Body Posture

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Posture is another important part of body language. It's important not to slouch when you give your presentation. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The way you hold yourself matters. You already know that poor posture such as slouching will give your audience the impression that you’re not confident in your topic or yourself. If your back is tense, they'll sense your tension and wonder what’s causing it.

Remind yourself to relax throughout your presentation and to straighten up if your start to slouch. Not only will this give you the chance to improve your posture, but it'll also allow your audience to take in the points you’ve just covered.

Learn More About Great Presentations

Now that you know more about how to stand during a presentation confidently, you can continue to level up your PowerPoint skills. We've built out a helpful resource, How to Use PowerPoint (Ultimate Tutorial Guide.) This has everything you need to master must-have presentation skills.

Check out these top tutorials from our guide below: 

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Make Use of Your Body Language to Ace Your Presentation

Delivering a great presentation is more than a good topic and strong slide deck. Using effective body language public speaking techniques can really make the difference.

Once you’ve nailed down your topic, make sure you've got a well-designed slide deck. You can save a lot of time by using a professionally designed PowerPoint templates. Choose from one found on Envato Elements or GraphicRiver to speed up your work.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of body language in a professional presentation. Your body language says a lot about you, not to mention it's got the power to help you deliver an engaging presentation. Put your body language to good use with the tips we've shared.  Step into space, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly with confidence.

Editorial Note: This content was originally published on May 1st of 2019. It's been updated by Andrew Childress to include new tips and examples to help teach you how to speak body language.

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