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Effective Public Speaking Goes Far Beyond Your Words

Updated on November 3, 2013

When it comes to public speaking, most of us practice our speech over and over again to ensure that we can fluently talk and give our audience the best experience possible. But, the truth is that our words are only half of the equation to a great speech. There is another important part to public speaking that you have to master if you want to become more confident every time you have to give a speech.

Your Body Language Can Either Offend, Bore, Or Engage Your Audience

When you are speaking in public, it is important to interact with your audience on some level. Even if you are talking to a large group, you are going to have to be interacting with them in some way. Following are three important considerations as you interact.

1. Eye Contact Has To Be Made With Your Audience

Eye contact is important to make the audience feel as though you are talking to them and not at them. It helps create a connection between you and the audience that holds their interest. With proper eye contact, they feel as though they are on the receiving end of a relationship that is meant to benefit them in some way, and that keeps them engaged.

However, if you do not make eye contact, your audience will feel as though they are simply there for your purposes, and this can cause them to feel annoyed or bored, depending on their mood.

Therefore, ensure that you scan the room from left to right during your speech. Try not to favor one side of the room more than the other, because you will annoy and frustrate the less-favored side of the room and lose their interest, and you will also make your favored side slightly uncomfortable.

As you scan the room, make direct eye contact with people when you are making a point. By doing this, you will see if they are making direct eye contact back, and you will know that you have their attention and interest when you do, which should help boost your confidence.

2. Mirroring Can Help Them Relate To You Or Get You In A Lot Of Trouble

When you are talking to anyone, even an audience or larger group of people, it is important to mirror them subtly. You may want to mirror their facial expressions, posture, and vocal quality. All of these things will help you and the people you are talking to develop a stronger connection. Essentially, it sends them the message, "I am the same as you, and we share the same viewpoints and attitudes about life."

However, if someone from your audience asks a question or responds to you with jerky, anxious, or fearful behavior, and you mirror them, then they are going to feel as though you are making fun of them and quickly disconnect from you and your speech. In addition, the rest of the audience will pick up on the tension and start to disconnect as well.

3. Fall Into A Breathing Pattern With Your Audience

People who have a deep rapport with each other will naturally synchronize their breathing while they are in the same room. This is something that not many people pay attention to during public speaking, but it is very important for making your audience feel comfortable and connected to you.

In other words, if you go up to speak, and you are breathing erratically, then the chances are high that your audience will feel uncomfortable and maybe even slightly annoyed, and because of this you will lose their interest very quickly.

Knowing this, you can try and match your audience's breathing pattern, increase rapport, and communicate more effectively with them. You don't even have to know them personally or talk to them; if they feel that connection to you, then they will feel as though they do know you, and that will win them over.

Use your peripheral vision to take in your audience as a whole and get a sense of the rhythm in the room. Try to see the rise and fall of the group and adjust your breathing to match theirs.

Knowing Is Not Enough

It is not enough to know how to use your body language to create a connection with your audience and increase their response and enthusiasm towards your speech; you also have to be able to implement the strategies.

As with everything, learning how to use your body language during public speaking takes practice. But, the more you understand your own reactions to people, and the more you watch other people's reactions to you, the easier it will become to send off the right messages. In fact, it will become second nature, and you will notice that your communication skills and confidence will increase.


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    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for the comment Bill. I agree - it is all about pushing past the fear.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Takes me back to Toastmaster's where they tried to teach me. All the elements are there. But, the only way to do it, is to do it. Be very well prepared, know your material, and do it! Thanks, again. Great hub! ;-)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very good info, don't think I could ever do public speaking, hope I never have too.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and very useful.

      Voted up,.