You've spent hours preparing your speech. The words are right, you're dressed to impress and your slides are loaded. But what about the rest of you? Body language expert Mo Shapiro explains that getting the best out of your body, starts in the mind.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I describe myself as an emotional fitness consultant, and one of the things that I specialise in is body language. I speak to business and social groups about getting their brains in gear and encourage them to exercise their mind muscles for greater success.
How can you use your body to enhance your speech?
Before you can use your body effectively, you've got to start in the right frame of mind.
If you want to deliver a calm speech your body has to convey calm, if you want to deliver an exciting speech you’ve got to be excited. A well prepared and warmed up voice and body create the whole message that you want to communicate.
How do you get into a good frame of mind?
There are different ways. Try carrying around notes with positive affirmations on them. Have a message at the top of your notes that says 'you're fantastic', 'brilliant' or 'I love you'! And if you do have notes write 'breathe' as a reminder.
Also, visualisation can be very effective. Imagine what it's going to be like, imagine the applause, imagine people nodding as you speak, coming up to you afterwards, tapping you on the shoulder and saying well done! All this helps.
What can people do to improve how they use their body?
Eye contact with individual members of the audience is vital; take care to look around everyone, so that they all feel included. If you're too nervous to look them in the eye, look at their forehead which will still make them feel involved.
Your voice comes from your breath, so it is vital that you stand in such a way that your breath can flow freely. Practice feeling connected to the floor. Your feet need to be firmly and evenly placed on the ground because if you’re unbalanced it affects your breathing and will affect your projection.
Stand tall; imagine a piece of string from the top of your head reaching to the ceiling, keeping you upright. Keep checking that your shoulders are free and relaxed and that your body is centred and released. This will give you a powerful speaking position. Stand straight and release your knees - any tension in your body will tighten your throat, constrict your breathing and seriously undermine your message and your effectiveness.
What are the pitfalls?
Make sure your body language isn’t too distracting. Vigorous pointing, wild arm movements, pacing around too much can all distract an audience away from what you are trying to say.
What should you do with your hands when speaking?
Let your gestures come naturally. You could start by letting your hands relax by your side unless you want to use them in a reinforcing gesture. Let them rest on a lectern if there is one. If you have notes use one hand to hold them. Don’t put your hands in your pockets, don't jingle your money, and don’t clasp them behind you.
What else is important?
Be yourself and let your enthusiasm for the subject shine through, this is what will engage your audience and immediately put them on your side.
It is essential to practice, practice, practice and fully warm up your speaking muscles. It’s claimed that Churchill said for every minute of a speech, you need to spend an hour practicing. And don’t just practice your words - practice your breathing, exercise your tongue and your cheeks. Hum, blow raspberries, and work on your tongue twisters to get ready for action.
Who do you think uses their body really well?
Barack Obama is an obvious choice because he has a very natural style and he uses his voice and body really well. He is calm and relatively quiet but he has an air of authority as he stands tall, takes his time and speaks as though you are the only person he is addressing.
Watch any stand up comedian and notice how effectively they use their bodies, standing still for much of the time and then moving around for impact and emphasis of. Peter Kay tells his story with words and he demonstrates exactly what he's talking about with his body.
One of my teachers, Doug Stevenson an American speaker is amazing. He teaches people to totally buy into what they’re doing, to use their body and voice confidently. He gets you thoroughly prepared, completely grounded and solely focussed on your current objective.
Get into the right frame of mind
Centre your body and relax your breathing
Let your gestures come naturally
Spend time warming up
There are no upcoming episodes.
The Speaker series has now concluded. This site will no longer be updated.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.