There is no simple rules for how you should stand, have your hands, look, or dress when you give a speech. However you must achieve three things in order to powerfully support the verbal message of your speech.
Sandy Linver in her book “Speak and Get Results” outlines the three areas: you must transmit authority, energy and audience awareness. Authority is that you look and sound like you have something to say about the subject. Energy is that you look like the subject is important to you. Audience awareness is that you have an interaction with the audience members so that they feel part of the experience of your speech.
How do you transmit authority? There are three ways that your body language or non-verbal language can signal authority to the audience:
- Visual image – The clothes you chose to wear at 7 this morning will have a big impact on how your audience judge you. Do you look like they would expect an “expert” on this topic to look? If you are speaking to a business audience about business, you should look the part. If you are speaking about social media and web 2.0 perhaps you can look somewhat different. If you are speaking to greenpeace or a local labour movement, a suit might create the wrong first impression.
- Body image – feet shoulder width apart, body balanced, gestures supporting the key moments of the speech, any walking during pauses – key being that there is nothing that is distracting the audience from being able to engage with your message (don’t look like you are about to fall over, like you have an intense interest in the keys in your pocket)
- Voice – There are five characteristics of a powerful voice
- Breathing – relaxed deep breaths give you projection and power
- Articulation – open your mouth and clearly pronounce the words, no mumbling and no “filler words” (um, ah, em, like)
- Downward inflection – In all human languages we signal answers by terminating the statement with downward inflection – we signal questions by finishing the phrase with a raised tone. Many times nerves will drive you to say “IESE is the best business school in the world” with a upward tilt in tone on the “world” turning it into “IESE is the best business school in the world?”.
- Pauses – Include 3-8 second pauses at key moments – just before key statements or just after a story – this really brings the audience into the speech.
- Projection and resonance – make sure you are using your whole diaphram – the chest and lungs as well as mouth and nose – can you feel the vibrations coming from your chest and your sternum vibrating? A voice that comes from the chest rather than a voice that vibrates in the nose reaches the back of the room and transmits powerfully.
Simple – you just need to look like you care about the subject that you are speaking about. If the speaker doesn’t look like this is a subject of great importance, it will be impossible for the audience to engage the subject with any sort of passion.
There is a huge about of communciation coming back to the speaker during the speech. You can see whether people are engaged or not. You can hear when there are distractions or areas of the audience that have lost engagement and are having side conversations. Usually a quick glance in the direction of the distracion, or simply pausing your speech until the audience re-engages can be a very powerful method to show that you are 100% physically there in the room and that the audience matter to you.