eye contact

Speaking Without Words

Good speakers are like actors, artfully blending verbal and nonverbal expression to engage an audience.An audience is more likely to listen to what you say if you project confidence in how you say it.

We perhaps misleadingly refer to a talk to an audience as a "speech." In reality, the words that are uttered are just a fraction of what an audience consumes. 

Audiences watch you speak and form judgments about you based on your body language and voice intonation, as well as on your words. Some estimate an audience impression is based on 80 percent of what it sees and only 20 per cent on what it hears.

So instead of preparing a speech, prepare instead a performance.

When you give a speech or make a presentation, you may literally be on stage. Take that motif to another level and conceive of yourself as a performer on stage. Think like an actor who blends his lines with body movements and positioning.

Look the Part, Act the Role

Whether press conference or presentation, people watch better than they listen. You need to look the part and act your role, paying as much attention to your body language as your words.

From the first time we open our eyes as babies, people learn by seeing. We take cues, form judgments and sense emotions by watching the movements of people.

Studies show body language conveys even more emotional information than facial expressions. Together, they speak volumes. 

If you fidget at a podium or garble your words, your audience will sense a lack of confidence and may discount what you say, regardless how persuasive or profound your point.

So, in addition to carefully crafting your words, the effective speaker and presenter meticulously practices his or her delivery — exactly like an actor.

In fact, you should think of a media interview, press conference or presentation in the same way as a stage play. You have a role to play and you need to look the part and act the role.

Here are a few tips:

Avoid weak postures

You tip off your audience that you are nervous or unsure of yourself by slumping, sticking your hands in your pockets or clasping your hands behind your back. These are seen as weak as opposed to power postures. Leaning forward at a podium or a table signals confidence and a desire to connect with your audience.

If you answer questions following a speech or press conference, don't cross your arms, which is a sign of defensiveness.

The key is to be mindful of your movements, especially your hands. They can underscore your meaning or confound and distract an audience if out of sync with your message.

Start Strong

Great speakers don't begin with apologies or lame jokes. They lean into their topic and form bonds with their audiences.

Start with a strong first line — an intriguing question, a startling admission or a thought-provoking statement.