Freedom from the podium!
Picture two speakers: the first is standing in front of you, just steps away and as they move across the stage making a point you can feel their energy, consistent with the message they are making. The second speaker is further away. You can see their shoulders and their face, but they keep looking down in front at a sheet of notes. More than this, it seems they are locked in place – almost as if they are shackled to what is in front of them – the podium.
One of the best forms of audience engagement speakers can take advantage of is using the space on a stage for purposeful movement congruent with the message being delivered. Conversely, one of the greatest barriers to delivering a powerful, persuasive message is for a speaker to stand behind a large barrier blocking the transfer of energy and free movement. No matter how good a speaker’s material may be, if they are not actively engaging the crowd with nonverbal forms of communication, they risk losing a large percentage of active listeners. Below are listed three major nonverbal communication forms of communication that will help speakers engage an audience and leave them wanting more!
1. It’s all in the eyes
Eye contact is one of the most powerful nonverbal forms of communication that when used properly can serve to enhance audience engagement and the delivery of a message. One excellent way to enhance eye contact when giving a speech is to focus on trying to make eye contact with every person in the room at least once. This method helps to create a personal attachment between the speaker and the audience in that it feels as if the speaker is speaking to each audience member directly. It’s amazing how connected the audience feels when they are acknowledged by the speaker even if it is only momentary. Another great way to achieve enhanced eye contact is to practice the principle of “Speaking in the Moment,” which is described in detail in Flip the Fear of Public Speaking. This principle provides speakers freedom from notes and the confidence to step out from behind the podium, allowing greater movement on stage and therefore a greater ability to direct attention – and therefore eye contact – to all sections of the audience.
2. Congruency is key!
The second great benefit of stepping out from behind the podium and using non-verbal communication involves the use of specific, purposeful body movement. Body movement will either serve to enhance or detract from a speaker’s message depending if used purposefully or not. If a speaker is nervous and crosses their arms, and without meaning to, acts defensively against the audience, the delivery of their message will be impeded. Whereas, if a speaker embraces purposeful, direct body language in alignment with their message, the power of what they are trying to say will be greatly increased. This does not mean that a speaker has to jump across the stage and wave their arms madly, but it could if this movement was suited to their message. Remember that small, but direct and concise movement can be just as effective as large, loud gestures if used congruently. The key is that any body language used matches the tone and message of the verbal component of the speech. Check out this video of one of the masters of congruent communication, Craig Valentine the 1999 world champion of public speaking, delivering a speech on presentation skills. Notice especially how Craig uses animated, but purposeful body language to win over the crowd.
3. The real story shines through!
Facial expression is a powerful way to transmit the energy of a message to the audience. This can be both a fantastic thing as well as something speakers need to be wary of. If used effectively, facial expression can again fit congruently with the speaker’s message, portraying the emotion the speaker wishes to deliver and supporting the tone of the speech. However, if a speaker is nervous and unaware of their facial expression, they may be unknowingly conveying their own feelings of nervousness, rather than the energy they wish to deliver through their message. The above video of Craig Valentine shows a fantastic example of facial expression that is congruent with the message. More than this, the energy Craig wants his audience to feel from his message is absolutely visible in his face. One of the best ways to achieve effective facial expression is to practice. Here it works well to utilize a mirror, or to ask for feedback from a practice audience on what kind of message your facial expression delivers while you speak. Speakers should strive for expression that transmits energy consistent with the message they are trying to portray at the times they want to portray it. This means that expression will likely change many times – as consistent with the rhythm of the speech.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found value in the tips for improving and enhancing nonverbal communication. Below are some other resources regarding nonverbal communication that you might find helpful:
Hope you have a great week and happy speaking!