I speak two languages, Body and English.”  – Mae West.

Yes, your grammar and vocabulary are definitely important, but the way you use your body language can raise your speech to a whole new level. Your posture, eye contact, gestures and facial expressions are some of the things that make up your body language. Let’s look at the different ways you could utilize your body language to make your speech interesting and memorable.

Posture.

Your posture speaks even before you open your mouth. Your confidence can be reflected by the way you carry yourself, stand upright with your shoulders back. Unless a verb in your speech requires you to change your posture, maintain your posture, and be the confident person you strive to be!

Eye contact.

Imagine speaking to someone who looks right through you, as if you don’t exist? Doesn’t sound comfortable, does it? Your goal should be to have a one-on-one conversation with the audience. Now, don’t stare them down. Toastmasters recommends that you try to hold each person’s eye for about 4 to 5 seconds. This helps to establish rapport, and helps you gain an understanding of the audience as they keep giving you immediate feedback through their little nods and smiles of acknowledgement. Look out for frowns too! 

Gestures.

What do you do with your hands and arms? Where do you put them? 

Clasp them in front of you ? No, you look nervous.

Across your chest ? No, you are restricting your movement.

Fidget with your clothes or jewelry? No, you are distracting the audience.

In your pockets so they are neatly tucked away? Nervous much?

Just place them relaxed by your sides and bring them up with a purpose. Let’s look at the three kinds of Gestures suggested by the Toastmasters. 

Conventional gestures– Communicate words, numbers, position.

>A ‘thumbs-up’ showing you agree

>Three fingers for the number three

Descriptive gestures- communicate an idea or movement.

>Spreading hands apart to show length

>Using hands to show a shape.

Emotional gestures- suggest feelings.

>A clenched fist to show anger.

>Hands clasped to show pleading.

Facial Expression.

Whether you are giving the audience a ‘special look’, a side-ways glance, or simply a raised eyebrow, your face speaks a thousand words! Use your face to maximum advantage; it is a very useful tool in getting your message across. This also allows you to show emotion, use less words and to send a message directly to your audience’s minds and hearts. Look out for artificial, deadpan, or unfriendly expressions you may be

making! Start including facial expressions that support your stories and reflect your emotions. A mirror could be a good mentor to practise your expressions!

Always remember, the most important visual you can show an audience is yourself. So, stand tall, wear your smile and adjust your body language accordingly!

Learn 4 essential ‘Body Language’ tips from the World Champion Public Speaker, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi