Tag Archives: stance

Powerful Presentation Body Language

presentation body language
Good gestures are more than a garnish for your presentation . . . presentation body language is essential to taking your show to the professional level

What is Body Language, and why worry about business presentation body language at all?

When we talk about body language in presentations, we really mean three distinct techniques – stance (or how we consciously position our bodies on-stage), expression (how we consciously utilize our facial expressions to enhance our meaning), and gesture (what we do with our hands to communicate).

In this post, let’s focus on gesture.

Gesture a Body Language Add-on?

Is gesture just some sort of garnish for the presentation?  Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation?

Has anyone ever broken down the elements of body language for you to explain what’s good and what’s bad?  What adds to and what subtracts from your show?

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance.

You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume, from your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

Body Language
Especially Powerful Gesture

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior body language messaging.

So what’s a Gesture?

It’s a wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side in a universal embrace.

A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.  A balled fist at the proper moment.  These are all part of presentation body language that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.

Transmitting Visuals

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This results from the presence of the speaker.

An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

presentation body language
Especially powerful presentation body language is the tool of the finest presenters

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.

It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Gestures provide energy and accent.

They add power.  They add emphasis and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture.  At the proper time.

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott‘s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.

It is certainly too important to dismiss with the breezy trope you occasionally hear:  “Move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today: “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

As part of your presentation body language repertoire, gesture should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words.  From the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or without a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us naturally to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.

It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.

You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power.  And on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Presentation body language
Presentation Body Language is especially powerful when coordinated with a strongly articulated message

For if you don’t begin to think in grand terms about yourself and your career, you remain mired in the mud.

Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.  As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.

Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations.

Movements that leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are a few of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers.  These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities.

It’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

This is a habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.

You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what.  So you develop these unconscious motions.  Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”

Tugging at your fingers. I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.

Bending your fingers back in odd manner.  This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced.  It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell.  It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.

Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement.  This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.

Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.

Presentation Body Language

Why would you want to “gesture” during your business presentation?

Aren’t your words enough without resorting to presentation body language?

Frankly, words are not enough.

Gestures add force to your points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal such presentation body language?

While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.  Said James Winans in 1915:

Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues.  Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.

Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine in superb presentation body language.

You attain an especially powerful presentation moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine and align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy.

Be spare with your gestures and be direct.

Make your presentation body language count, and you can gain incredible competitive advantage.

For more on presentation body language, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret #1 (Part 2) – Your Ready Position

An especially powerful ready position
Your Ready Position

Your Ready Position.

Your ready position is the default stance you assume when giving your talk, when not emphasizing a point with movement and gesture.

Think a moment about how you stand while you give your talk.

I refer to the time when you’re not moving about the stage to emphasize this or that point.

This especially powerful ready position is your anchor, your life preserver in a storm. Your safe harbor.

Powerful . . . Confident . . . In command

When you stride to the stage, move to the command position in front of the lectern and facing the crowd.

Now, plant yourself as you would a paving stone in a garden.  Plant yourself firmly, as a stone, with feet shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed, shoulders squared.  Plant yourself as a deeply rooted Redwood.

Do not slouch or put more weight on one foot than on the other.  Point your toes slightly outward.  Neither slump, nor stiffen. Shoulders back, head up, expectant.

Do not allow your head to settle down betwixt your collar bones. This compresses your neck like a collapsed concertina.   It cramps your voice box and cuts the flow of air that you need to speak.

At this point, let your hands hang loosely at your sides . . . (in a moment, we’ll give you something to do with your hands).

Walking and pointing and looking and eye-contact?  Forget it for now.

Forget it all for now.

First, you must seize control of yourself and adopt your strong, basic stance and make it your habit.

You must control all of those little tics and habits and nervous gestures that leech the strength from your presentation.  The tics and habits that telegraph your nervousness and lack of confidence.

What tics and habits, you say?  Every young presenter has at least some of them and the ready position can help remedy the following pathologies.

Do Not cross your leg in front of you while you balance on the other.  This “standing cross” is more prevalent, for some reason, among female presenters than among males.  Some males have this habit as well.  This is a particularly debilitating movement from both the standpoint of the audience and for you.  It projects instability.  And it makes you feel unstable.

Do Not cock your hip to one side – this is called a “hip-shot.”  Again, this action undermines your foundation.  This hip-shot posture degrades your presentation in multiple ways.  It shouts nonchalance.  It denotes disinterest and impatience.  It cries out to the audience a breezy bar demeanor that is completely at odds with the spoken message you want to convey.

Do Not engage in little choppy steps.  This side-to-side dance is common.  It telegraphs nervousness.

Do Not slump your shoulders.  Few things project lack of confidence like rounded shoulders.  Slumping shoulders can be a reflexive response to nervousness that leads to a “closed body position.”

Again.  Stand in one place, your feet comfortably shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward.  Arms at your sides.

Your Foundation – Your Ready Position

Your goal at this point is to maintain a solid physical foundation.  To project an image of confidence to the audience and to imbue yourself with confidence in point of fact.  You begin to do this with your stance – solid and confident.

Now here is the most important guidance for your Foundation “Ready” position.

Stand as described, and place your left hand in your pants pocket, out of the way.  This position should be your default position.  Putting the hand in your pocket gets it out of the way and keeps you out of trouble.  Moreover, it projects confidence.

If you have no pocket, ease your left hand a bit behind you and to the side.  No, not in a military posture, but enough to disengage it.  If you are left-handed, of course disengage your right hand.

And, no, it is not “unprofessional.”  This position carries a multitude of positives and no negatives.  You never go wrong with this position.

It imbues you with confidence and keeps you copacetic.  To your audience, it projects competence, confidence, reassurance, and sobriety:  “Here is someone who knows his/her stuff.”

This is your Ready Position.

Especially Powerful Ready Position
Your Ready Position Communicates Power

Everything else you do flows from this position.  Practice your two-minute talk from this position and do not move.

Stop!

Stop and think.  When you are ready to make a point that is crucial to your thesis . . .  When you are ready to shift subjects or major ideas . . . then

Then, step to the left while addressing the people on the left flank. Talk to them.  Then, step to the right and address those on your right.  Hold open your hands, palms up.  Walk toward your audience a step or two. Look them in the eyes. Speak to individuals.

Then, step back to the center and retake your ready position.

Let your movements emphasize your points. When you gesture to a portion of the audience, step toward them in a kind of supplication.

And always always, always go back to the ready postion.  I have seen dozens of young speakers transformed into capable, confident speakers by virtue of this alone.

How is that possible?  By removing the doubt associated with “How will I stand.”

This powerful and stable ready position imbues you with confidence, your first step toward building positive energy within yourself.

The Ready Position — it’s your safe harbor in a sea of presentation uncertainty.

Secret #1 – Power Posing for a Winning Stance

Stance-214x300
An Especially Powerful Stance is One Key to Delivering a Great Presentation

You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation, and an especially powerful technique is to utilize “power posing” as the basis of your stance.

Stance is the first of our Seven Secrets to especially powerful presenting and is fundamental to projecting your strong image.

Let me preface with assurance that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But at the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, which has been researched and popularized by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?

Have you ever consciously thought about it?

What is my pose?  Sheepish?  Mincing?  Unsure?  Domineering?  Awkward?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others non-verbally.

You send messages to those around you.  Folks around us take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

Presentation Power
Power Posing at its Finest

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.

Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just what is the message you unconsciously send to people?

Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  Your listeners form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

This has always been true.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?  Melt-down?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Call this defeatist behavior non-power posing.

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.

Another effect is in play, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

Especially Powerful Power Posing
Plant yourself like a paving stone

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.

It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.

We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic, and this is the secret at the core of power posing.

Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.  Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Amy Cuddy’s Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.  This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders.

Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly, firmly, and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

So what is a confident posture?

Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

For any structure to endure, we must build on strength.  And I mean this both in the metaphorical and in the literal sense with regard to business presentations.

You must not only project strength and stability, you must feel strength and stability.  The two are inseparable, and a moment’s thought reveals to you why.

For an especially powerful presentation
Power Posing Projects Confidence

Consider the confident speaker.

To appear unstable and fearful before an audience, a confident speaker must take a conscious effort to strike such a weak pose.  Likewise, it would take a conscious effort for a person, who has planted himself firmly in the prescribed confident posture, to feel nervous, uncertain, or unsure of himself.

The key is to adopt the confident pose and maintain it relentlessly against all of the body’s involuntary urges to crumple and shift, to equivocate and sway.

The point and the goal is to establish a foundation that exudes strength, competence, and confidence.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.  It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

This strong personal foundation is your ready position, your standard posture for your presentation.  It serves as the foundation for everything else to follow.

For elaboration on power posing for confident stance and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

The second part of Secret #1 appears tomorrow . . .

Power Posing for Powerful Presentations

Power posing
Power Posing leads to especially powerful presentations

I truly don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering students, but one power posing exercise that probably elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

Picture this . . .

It consists of everyone rising to a standing position and striking a confident stance with feet shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

An awesome pose.

Now, visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”

Several times.

Power Posing to Feel Especially Powerful?

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, indicating a robust and vibrant embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what, to some, might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.  Second, power posing accomplishes several superb physiological goals that improve a range of characteristics associated with business presenting. Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.

Body Language

We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message.  Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.

Power Posing!
Power Posing is the province of all influential speakers

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.  Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message.

But it is essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood, and it constitutes a secret that I’ve utilized with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.

Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:

“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.

The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …

Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”

So what does this have to do with powerful business presenting?

Everything.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language, and we ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.

Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.

Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?

Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

Turn Negative Energy into Positive

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can consciously affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

Power Posing confers power
Power Posing confers professional presence

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.

Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”

No, there’s no catch.

And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.

Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Business would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.

A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

The Kellogg study early in mid-2011 yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The Harvard study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.

Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

Power Posing is a tool of the Great Speaker
All great speakers in history utilized power posing

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Power Posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery tremendously and in ways you’ve likely not imagined.

Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.

The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.

Square your shoulders.

Fix a determined look on your face.

Speak loudly and distinctly.

Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.

Seize the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

To feel even more powerful with power posing, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Stand in a Presentation

How to stand in a presentation You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation.

You achieve this goal with a number of techniques, all working simultaneously and in harmony.

Those techniques comprise our backpack full of Seven Secrets.

Your first technique – or secret – is fundamental to projecting the image of strength, competence, and confidence.  This first technique is assumption of the proper stance.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

Let me preface by assuring you that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing, the first step in learning how to stand in a presentation.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception?  What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?  Have you ever consciously thought about it?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others nonverbally.

Know How to Stand in A Presentation

You send a message to those around you, and those around us will take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.  Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just wHow to Stand in a Presentationhat is the message you unconsciously send people?

Have you even thought about it?  Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Seize control of your communication this instant.  There is no reason not to.  And there are many quite good reasons why you should.

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  They form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.

They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

The importance of knowing how to stand in a presentation has been acknowledged for centuries.  Speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat?  Ennui?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?

Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.How to Stand in a Presentation

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.  There is another effect, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.  It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.  We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic.  Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.

Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders. Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language.

It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

For more on how to stand in a presentation and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.

An Especially Powerful Stance – Video

Executive Presence is a quality we all wish we could have.

The good news is that we can develop it, and it goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence.

The paradox for some folks is that those with the most potential for especially powerful executive presence often intentionally diminish their capacity for it.  It’s a kind of self-sabotage that many engage in.

One client I have from a foreign country has incredible charisma and the fundamental tools to develop personal magnetism and powerful personal presence; but he plays it down and attempts to diminish his presence.

An Especially Powerful Stance

Self-consciousness is his worst enemy, and so we’ve worked together on getting him to relish his natural attributes, such as his height and a distinguished bald pate.  He now extends himself to his full 6’2” height and employs his deep, resonant voice to full effect.  He has a persona that draws people to him, and now he utilizes that quality in especially powerful fashion.

In short, we worked together on developing an especially powerful presence that attracts attention rather than deflects it.  How can you go about doing this?

Have a look at my short instructional video on developing the basis for a powerful initial stance . . .

Coca-Cola CEO Gives a Bad Business Presentation

Bad Business Presentation
Bad Business Presentations Infest Corporate America

Lets look at one of the pathologies of the bad business presentation – the poor stance of the speaker.

A wholly unsatisfactory stance infests the business landscape, and you’ve seen it dozens of times.

You see it in the average corporate meeting

You see it in the after-dinner talk, finance brief, or networking breakfast address.

While unrelenting positivity is probably the best approach to presentation improvement, it helps at times to see examples of what not to do.  This is especially true when the examples involve folks of lofty stature who probably ought to know better.

The Emperor’s Bad Business Presentation

If they dont know better, this is likely a result of the familiar syndrome of those closest to the boss not having the guts to tell the boss he needs improvement.

The speaker stands behind a lectern.

The speaker grips the lectern on either side.

The speaker either reads from notes or reads verbatim from crowded busy slides projected behind him.

The lectern serves as a crutch.  The average speaker, whether student or corporate VP, appears afraid that someone might snatch the lectern away.

Many business examples illustrate this, and youve probably witnessed lots of them yourself.

Let’s take, for instance, Mr. Muhtar Kent, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca-Cola.

Video rated PG-13:  violence done to speaking skills

Mr. Kent appears to be a genuinely engaging person on occasions where he is not speaking to a group.  But when he addresses a crowd of any size, something seizes Mr. Kent.  He reverts to delivering drone-like talks that commit virtually every public speaking sin.

He delivers excruciatingly bad business presentations.

He leans on the lectern.

He hunches.

He squints and reads his speech from notes in front of him.  When he does diverge from his speech, he rambles aimlessly.

In the video below, Mr. Kent delivers an October 2010 address at Yale University.  He begins badly with a discursive apology, grips the lectern as if it might run away, does not even mention the topic of his talk until the 4-minute mark, and hunches uncomfortably for the entire 38-minute speech. Have a look . . .

 

Successful C-Suite businessmen and businesswomen, such as Mr. Kent, are caught in a dilemma – many of them are terrible presenters, but no one tells them so.

No one tells them, because there’s no upside in doing it.  If you worked for Mr. Kent, would you tell him so?  Of course not.

Moreover, many business leaders believe their own press clippings.  They invest their egos into whatever they do.

It becomes impossible for them to see and think clearly about themselves.  They tend to believe that their success in managing a conglomerate, in steering the corporate elephant of multinational business to profitability, means that their skills and judgment are infallible across a range of unrelated issues and tasks.

Such as business presenting.

And this is why you see so many bad business presentations by so many smart and powerful people.

Mr. Kent is by all accounts a shrewd corporate leader and for his expertise received in 2010 almost $25 million in total compensation as Coca-Cola CEO and Board Chairman.  But he is a poor speaker.  He delivers a bad business presentation, but . . .

But he has great potential that will probably never be realized.

And this is tragic, because many business leaders like Mr. Kent could become outstanding speakers and even especially powerful advocates of their businesses.

The Bad Business Presentation Curse

As it stands now, executives such as Mr. Kent exert an incredibly insidious influence in our schools and in the corporate world generally.

Let’s call it the “hem-of-garment” effect.

Those of us who aspire to scale the corporate heights imitate what we believe to be winning behaviors.  We want to touch the hem of the garment, so-to-speak, of those whom we wish to emulate.

Because our heroes are so successful, their “style” of speaking is mimicked by thousands of young people who believe that, well, this must be how it’s done:  “He is successful, therefore I should deliver my own presentations this way.”

Especially Powerful Business Presentations
“Yes, we can turn him into a capable Business Presenter.”

You see examples of this at your own B-School, as in when a VP from a local insurance company shows up unprepared, and reads from barely relevant slides.

He then takes your questions in chaotic and perhaps haughty form.

Who could blame you if you believe that this is how it should be done?  The bad business presentation is, after all, the unfortunate standard.

But this abysmal level of corporate business presenting offers you an opportunity . . .

You need only become an above-average speaker to be considered an especially powerful presenter.

A presenter far more powerful than Mr. Muhtar Kent or any of 500 other CEOs.

It is completely within your power to do so.

For more on avoiding the bad business presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret # 1 — Stance

You want to project strength, competence, and confidence throughout your presentation.

You achieve this goal with a number of techniques, all working simultaneously and in harmony.

Those techniques comprise our backpack full of Seven Secrets.

Your first technique – or secret – is fundamental to projecting the image of strength, competence, and confidence. This first technique is assumption of the proper stance.

Let me preface by assuring you that I do not expect you to stay rooted in one spot throughout your talk.  But the risk of sounding clichéd, let us state forthrightly that it is impossible to build any lasting structure on a soft foundation.

Your Foundation – Power Posing

This foundation grows out of the notion of what we can call “power posing.”

Let’s build your foundation now and learn a little bit about the principle of power posing.

How do you stand when you converse in a group at a party or a reception? What is your “bearing?”  How do you stand before a crowd when you speak?  Have you ever consciously thought about it?

How you stand, how you carry yourself, communicates to others.  It transmits a great deal about us with respect to our inner thoughts, self-image, and self-awareness.

Whether we like this is not the point.  The point is that we are constantly signaling others nonverbally.

A message is being sent – you are sending a message to those around you, and those around us will take their cues based on universal perception of the messages received.

What is true in small groups is also true as you lecture or present in front of groups of four or 400.  Whether you actually speak or not, your body language is always transmitting.  If so, just what is the message you unconsciously send people?

Have you even thought about it?  Have you thought about the silent and constant messages your posture radiates?

Seize control of your communication this instant.  There is no reason not to.  And there are many quite good reasons why you should.

Recognize that much of the audience impression of you is forming as you approach the lectern.  They form this impression immediately, before you shuffle your papers or clear your throat or squint into the bright lights.  They form their impression from your walk, from your posture, from your clothing, from your grooming, from the slightest inflections of your face, and from your eye movement.

This has always been true; speaking Master Grenville Kleiser said in 1912 that, “The body, the hand, the face, the eye, the mouth, all should respond to the speaker’s inner thought and feeling.”

Defeat? Ennui?

Do you stand with shoulders rounded in a defeatist posture?

Do you transmit defeat, boredom, ennui?  Do you shift from side-to-side or do you unconsciously sway back-and-forth?  Do you cross and uncross your legs without knowing, balancing precariously upon one foot, your free leg wrapped in front of the other, projecting an odd, wobbly, and about-to-tumble-down image?

Your posture affects those who watch you and it affects you as well.  Those effects can be positive or negative.

Posture, of course, is part of nonverbal communication, and it serves this role well.  The audience takes silent cues from you, and your posture is one of those subtle cues that affect an audience’s mood and receptivity.

But posture and bearing are not simply superficial nonverbal communication to your audience.  There is another effect, and it can be insidious and can undermine your goals . . . or it can be an incredibly powerful ally to your mission.

It is this:  Your body language transmits your depression, guilty, fear, lack of confidence to the audience.  It also enhances and reinforces those feelings within you.  Most often, if we fear the act of public speaking, the internal flow of energy from our emotional state to our physical state is negative.

Negative energy courses freely into our limbs and infuses us with stiffness, dread, immobility and a destructive self-consciousness.  We shift involuntarily into damage-limitation mode.

It cripples us.

Your emotions affect your body language.  They influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

Reverse the Process

But . . .

You can reverse the process.

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.

You can turn it around quite handily and seize control of the dynamic.  Instead of your body language and posture reflecting your emotions, reverse the flow.  Let your emotions reflect your body language and your posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

Skeptical?

A venerable psychological theory contends this very thing, that our emotions evolve from our physiology.  It’s called James-Lange Theory, developed by William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange.  Speaking Master James Albert Winans noted the phenomenon in 1915:

Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous.  Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. . . .  [I]f we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate.

Much more recently, a Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.  Harvard researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Andy J. Yap say in the September 2010 issue of Psychological Science that:

[P]osing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

In other words, stand powerfully and you increase your power and presence.  You actually feel more powerful.  This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.

In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel.  Assume the posture of confidence.  Consciously affect a positive, confident bearing.  Square your shoulders. Affix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.  In short, let your actions influence your emotions.

Seize control of the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

So what is a confident posture?  Let’s begin with a firm foundation.

Foundation

For any structure to endure, we must build on strength.  And I mean this both in the metaphorical and in the literal sense with regard to business presentations. You must not only project strength and stability, you must feel strength and stability.  The two are inseparable, and a moment’s thought reveals to you why.

Think first of the confident man.

To appear unstable and fearful before an audience, a confident man must take a conscious effort to strike such a pose.  Likewise, it would take a conscious effort for a man, who has planted himself firmly in the prescribed confident posture, to feel nervous, uncertain, or unsure of himself.

That is, if he affected the confident pose and maintained it relentlessly against all of the body’s involuntary urges to crumple and shift, to equivocate and sway.

Think as well of the confident woman.

How does the confident woman’s demeanor different from that of the confident man?  Virtually not at all.  The point and the goal is to establish a foundation that exudes strength, competence, and confidence.

Essential to this goal is that you know the difference between open body language and closed body language. It is the difference between power posing and powerless posing.

This strong personal foundation is your ready position, your standard posture for your presentation.  It serves as the foundation for everything else to follow.

For elaboration on Stance and the other six secrets of business presenting, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presenting.