This is the fifth article in an eight-part series covering the most important elements of body language for public speaking. Click here to read the entire series.
In your role as a public speaker, everything about your physical presence should convey the sense that you feel comfortable being in control of the room. Your posture contributes mightily to that impression.
Stand upright and avoid slouching. Square your shoulders with the audience – face them directly instead of tilting your body at a slight angle away from them (unless you’re soliciting audience feedback, in which case turning your body at a slight angle can help encourage audience participation).
When you’re not actively gesturing, you can rest your hands in one of two places:
- 1. The first option is to rest your hands at your side. It feels strange, but it looks fine to the audience.
- 2. The second option, my preference, is to nest one hand within the other, keeping both at navel-level when not gesturing. Nesting is a nice option, since it allows you to gesture freely when making an important point.
Some speakers prefer to “steeple” their hands, which is when all five fingertips on one hand touch the five fingertips on the opposite hand. Because this can look pretentious, I don’t typically recommend it, but some speakers are able to get away with it just fine.
If you speak at a lectern (and hopefully, you won’t), rest your hands comfortably on top of the lectern. Avoid the lectern “death grip,” in which your hands grip the sides of the lectern and make you look like you’re holding onto the furniture for dear life. Another option is to avoid making physical contact with the lectern altogether by moving back a couple of inches and keeping your hands nested at navel-level throughout your talk.
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.
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