When you present yourself to your audience during a public presentation, you must be confident and knowledgeable about your topic and you must develop delivery techniques that reinforce your professionalism. Your actual physical delivery, how you carry yourself, will make a remarkable difference in how well you are received. Here are some tips to getting it right and keeping your audience engaged so you can present with flair.
Posture–You might not think that posture is a significant aspect of public speaking, but how you hold yourself in front of an audience is very important. While you are standing, stand erect, not stiff, but upright. If you are using a podium, do not lean on it. This looks sloppy. I have a colleague how paces constantly while he speaks. This is also very distracting. It is how he channels his energy stream while he speaks but it is not an attractive delivery method. It is acceptable to walk about the front of the room to change your location or to point out some feature on a projected visual. If there is a desk or table present, it is not recommended that you sit on the edge of it. You may feel more relaxed doing this but it is interpreted as too casual in most settings.
Gestures–Gestures are always appropriate when speaking to reinforce what you are saying. But avoid any constant waving of the hands or arms. It will make you look too theatrical and insincere, and the audience will find it annoying after while. Use your gestures for emphasis while making a major point, but too much of it and nothing will seem any more significant than the rest.
Facial Expressions-It is important to use appropriate and timely facial expressions. How you use your facial changes is a form of gesturing. Of course, it is important to be friendly, and a warm smile will accomplish this. But as you deliver, it is acceptable to look serious when you are speaking about serious issues. Never confuse your audience with conflicting facial expressions versus your content. As you make an important point, if you are not careful, you can minimize its significant if you look too lighthearted about it.
Personal Space-Every culture has varying degrees of what they prefer for personal space. You may have experienced this in the past where some persons you have not met previously find it comfortable to be up close and personal with you. North American society has a broader depth of personal space than some other societies. So when you speak to a crowd of people, be aware that some in the audience may not be comfortable with you standing too close to them or gesturing within their comfort circle. Being too close can be threatening to them and they will not find you or your topic engaging, regardless of how well prepared you are or how dynamic your speaking style is.
Eye Contact-The most important physical aspect of public speaking is making eye contact with your audience. In any level of personal communication, maintaining eye contact with those you are speaking to will keep them engaged and show you care. Whether you are speaking to a room with 100 people or one on one in a job interview, always work on looking at those listening to you. Otherwise you will appear unsure of yourself. This takes practice and many do not find it easy. Some public speakers will look more at their note pages than at the audience, thereby disengaging from those listening. Avoid this at all cost. It is appropriate to use note cards or a speaker’s outline but never read from them.
Dress and Personal Appearance-How you look and what you wear are also very important concerns when you speak in public. Depending on the occasion, you may need to dress more formally. If you are only representing yourself, more casual attire might be in order. But if you are representing an organization or your employer, your dress could be dictated to by their standards. Always make a good first impression and how you look goes a long way to feeling you have had a positive impact on your listeners.