Public Speaking Body Language Part Two: Tone

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on July 10, 2012 – 6:03 am

This is the second article in an eight-part series covering the most important elements of body language for public speaking. Click here to read the entire series.

When you deliver a speech, you should own the room. No, that won’t make you look arrogant or controlling. Audiences want you to take charge.

Just think about the last meeting you attended that had either no discernible leader or a weak one. The meeting probably went on too long, the conversation surely meandered without purpose, and no one likely stepped up to reign in a dominant personality.

There are many ways to appear in control, and using the body language elements described in this series will go a long way toward helping you own the room.

Here are a few other ways to maintain control:

  1. 1. Avoid looking defensive. If people challenge something you’ve said, you will be more likely to win over the audience by reacting with a calm, open tone.
  2. 2. Change your monologue. If something goes wrong, change your interior monologue from, “Oh, no, this is becoming a disaster,” to “I’m a competent speaker and will regain control of the room momentarily.” You can then regain control by saying something such as, “This is a valuable discussion, and because it’s so important, I’m going to leave some room at the end of the session to continue the conversation. But in order to more fully inform that discussion, I’m going to move ahead and discuss two other points first….”
  3. 3. Be the most dominant person. You can rein in dominant personalities by telling them you’d like to continue your discussion with them during a break, walking slowly into their personal space and turning your body away from them, or asking other people to comment.
  4. 4. Be a good time cop. Susan Weinschenk, a psychologist and author of 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, writes that speakers can demonstrate their ownership of a room by taking breaks at prescribed times, starting their presentations on time after breaks, and pacing their presentations so they don’t appear to be rushing toward the end.

Being in control doesn’t mean you have to look like a control freak. Oftentimes, a warm and easygoing presence will do more to establish your authority than a strident and overbearing one.

Smiling, for example, can help you win over an audience since humans subconsciously imitate the expressions and actions we observe. Some neuroscientists credit that human instinct to “mirror neurons,” an emerging subject of considerable interest and intense debate.

Understanding mirror neurons can be a huge boon for you as a speaker. Allan and Barbara Pease, co-authors of The Definitive Book of Body Language, report that members of your audience are more likely to accept your ideas if they are nodding and/or smiling.

So try nodding and smiling as you make a critical point. You’ll likely see many members of your audience responding in kind. When they do, you’ll be that much closer to achieving your goals – and will be demonstrating your ownership of the room.

Click here to read the entire series, which covers energy, tone, eye contact, gestures, posture, where to stand, how to interact with PowerPoint, and voice.

Need a keynote speaker for your next annual conference or staff retreat? Brad Phillips, author of the Mr. Media Training Blog, has delivered dozens of well-received keynote addresses on media interviews and public speaking. Click here for more details, and click here to contact us.  

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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