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8 Nonverbal Tips for Public Speaking

8 Nonverbal Tips for Public Speaking

Nonverbal communications are the most challenging aspect for students to improve when public speaking. In the article below, we will provide the 8 most important nonverbal tips for public speaking.

Nonverbal tips help students significantly in communication because nonverbal communication and verbal communication are the two core components of public speaking. While verbal communication can be improved with extensive practice, nonverbal communication directly impacts the audience’s ability to comprehend the message. Every gesture, from the movement of your hands to eye contact, will send different signals to the audience about your capabilities and understanding of the subject. Imagine, if you see a public speaker who delivers their point coherently and comprehensively, what will you think if they keep looking down or sideways, and put their hands behind their back? 

Albert Mehrabian once wrote about the importance of verbal and non-verbal messages. He found out about the 7-38-55 rule: our words convey 7% of the meaning, our tone 38%, and our body language provides 55% of what the audience will remember.  

Nonverbal language is hard to control, especially when you are too focused on presenting. Therefore, to help you be aware of your nonverbal cues and improve your body language and eye contact for future group presentations, here are eight nonverbal tips for you. We will discuss nonverbal communication in two forms: body language and tone.  

Body language
1. The power pose by Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy, the US social psychologist, suggests the “powerful pose” – spreading your arms wide and looking confident – to help people feel more powerful. According to her research with Harvard University, “those who sat on the high-power pose, felt more powerful and had performed better in mock interviews than those who had not.” Our body influences our mind; therefore, by making the power pose, we feel more powerful and become more confident.  

2. Maintain consistent breathing

The second nonverbal tip is focused on breathing. Breathing is essential in the public speaking setting. Breathing is often an undervalued and underrated method in public speaking, even though proper breathing will help you with your vocal control, pitch, and tone. For many people who have a fear of public speaking, research indicates breathing is correlated with speech anxiety. Speech anxiety causes shallower breathing: the less air we inhale, the shorter we can talk, and the less effective the presentation will be.  

Before starting to speak, remember to take a deep breath by inhaling and exhaling for a quick second. This nonverbal tip allows the audience to have a short mental break before listening to your following sentence. There are multiple breathing exercises on the internet, such as from Harvard Business Review, to help you control your breathing while speaking as well.  

3. Use proper hand gesture to enhance your message and improve confidence

Pay attention to where your hands are and what you are doing with them. Besides PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, and other presentation tools, your hands are a great way to communicate and illustrate your point of view to the audience. Using hand gestures communicates with the audience and helps them memorize better.  

To properly use your hands, always imagine there is a box in front of you. Remember you should only move your hands within that box, or else it will be distracting to the audience. An exception is made for power posing because power posing only happens once or twice during the presentation to enforce power and confidence to the speaker. Hand gestures need a lot of practice to make them go smoothly and unforcefully. We suggest that you practice beforehand in front of a mirror while running through your speech or film yourself. That way, you can easily spot errors during the presentation and adjust them accordingly. 
4. Movement - Moving your body around the stage
Besides power posing and hand gestures, body movements are another great way to visually include everyone into the current conversation, and show that you’re confident about the subject matter. Therefore, during presentations or public speaking, we recommend that you lean your body towards the audience and walk around on stage. If you record your presentation, you will realize your aura of confidence and leadership. However, remember that you should move around only every 2-3 minutes. Otherwise, this will distract your audience, for example, if you are constantly pacing back and forth.
5. Make eye contact with everyone in the audience
In combination with body movements, the fifth nonverbal tip is making eye contact. Maintaining eye contact will help the audience feel engaged and focused on the presentation. We typically recommend students follow the left-right-middle rule. This rule means at the beginning of the presentation, students should move to the left and make eye contact with an individual there for around 3 to 5 seconds, then move to the right, and so on. There are so many things you can communicate through your eyes, especially emotion. Smiling with your eyes allows for a deeper connection and a more friendly feeling towards the audience. If you are nervous in front of a large audience, try to think that they are your friends and you’re sharing exciting information with them.
6. Control your voice with proper breathing
Harvard Business Review provides an example illustrating how breathing affects how a voice sounds when a person says “I have something to say” in two different tones. The two tones impact the sound, making “I have something to say” from a sentence to a question. Breathing is proven to affect tremendously how the voice sounds. With proper breathing suggested above, your voice will have richness and fullness when you speak in public. You will sound not only confident but also knowledgeable about the subject matter, so people will naturally listen to what you are saying
7. Consistency in public speaking
Consistency in voice and facial expression is an essential point of nonverbal communication. Your tone of voice and facial expressions should always match each other depending on the topics you are discussing. The mismatch in two results typically in cognitive dissonance, decreases the message’s credibility, and damages your authority as a public speaker. 
8. Having a variety of vocal

According to research, TED speakers delivering the most popular talks had 30.5% higher vocal variety. Having vocal variety will help you speak in an expressive and energized way, while helping the audience maintain interest for the whole speech. Memorizing a script and speaking like a script will turn the audience off and make them lose interest, because monotone = boring. We suggest you remember the main points of your speech, then allow for some spontaneity and flexibility in your actual presentation. In addition, depending on the environment of the stage or the amount of audience, have a higher vocal variety because the audience may have a hard time hearing you. 

The next time you prepare for a presentation in front of a big group of audience, remember the 8 nonverbal tips we provided you. Good luck with your presentation, you can do it! For students who are looking to improve their nonverbal and verbal communications, we have just the right class for you!

Aralia College Accelerator Program offers a diverse range of public speaking classes designed to nurture profound interests and improve their public speaking skills. Our classes cover various aspects of effective communication, including persuasive techniques, audience engagement strategies, and speech delivery mastery. 

Accent Reduction

The accent reduction course focuses on understanding and strengthening the unique sounds and structures that make up the “neutral” dialect. While there are many dialects throughout America, it is the neutral accent commonly practiced by public speakers and officials. Radio DJs, TV news anchors, and even most Hollywood movie actors use the neutral accent to convey their message to the largest group of Americans possible. By eliminating accents in communication, we can more easily connect to our audience and erase any misunderstandings or unconscious bias from a foreign dialect, whether domestic or international.

TED-Style Public Speaking

In this English Speaking course, each class will focus on different topics: sports, volunteer experience, current affairs, politics, culture, education, literature, technology, and the environment. These various themes are based on real situations that students will encounter when they come to the United States. Learning to discuss these topics will be very useful when interacting with native English speakers. Students will build a solid foundation in oral expression and learn how to express themselves confidently and clearly in English.

Public Speaking and Debate

This Public Speaking and Debate class will offer the opportunity to speak and listen to others talk only as much as possible. We will alternate between learning the structure of different types of speeches and making presentations by one student to the rest of the class. After each speech by students, we will have a critique from the peers, and the teacher. They will also be required and coached on how to participate in the discussion and to critique their peers.


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