Body Language Tips and Strategies

Our main goal when we speak is to be believed, to be credible.

Fear inhibits communication.  So let’s arm ourselves with some body language tips and strategies.

Joe Navarro wrote What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People.  He says,

“There is no Pinnochio effect to tell if someone is lying or not, only if the person is comfortable or uncomfortable.” Joe Navarro

If we look uncomfortable, we intuitively do not believe.  Physical presence is important:

  • 55%  physical communication cues
  • 38%  tone (vocal variety)
  • 7%    are your words

According to researchers, if these are in conflict, the non-verbal will most likely be believed.

If you know me, you know I love Ted TalksTed Talks receive thousands of hits every day; hundreds of thousands of hits every month.

A Human behavior consultancy group called Science of People – did two different screenings of Ted Talks. They had half the participants watch Ted Talks on silent, and half watch Ted Talks with sound. They asked both of the groups the exact same questions:

  • How would you rate this talk overall?
  • How charismatic is the speaker?
  • How intelligent is the speaker?
  • How credible is the speaker?

They found that the people who watched the talks on mute rated speakers almost exactly the same as the people who had watched the talks with sound. Think about that. It shows just how important our body language and ur physical presence affects our communication.

6 Important Non-verbals:

1- Eye contact

When I was in a public speaking course in college, the professor told us to look at or over everyone without really looking at anyone.  We know now that that is bad information.

  • We want to establish a connection with our audience. If I talk to someone and don’t really look at them, I will appear shifty.  (Our GOAL is to be BELIEVED.)
  • Lock eyes for 3-5 seconds or until you complete a thought.
  • Think “Land and stay rather than spray”- Whitney Capps, Proverbs 31 Ministry
  • Search for friendly eyes but ultimately try to establish eye contact with everyone.

2- Breath

  • Controlling your breath seems like such a small thing but it is a tremendous way to control your body and nervousness.
  • Nervous or shallow breathing is breathing in your chest.  You can see your shoulders rise. Good breathing comes from your diaphragm. Feel your hand move on your tummy with deep diaphragm breathing.
  • Psychologists use a relaxation technique to calm nerves called box breathing.  Basically, you inhale through your nose 4 seconds, hold breath in for 4 seconds, exhale through your nose 4 seconds, and then hold that breath out for 4 seconds. Practice while waiting to come up and speak and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.
  • Remember: “Control your breath, control your fear.” Christina Parker Brown

3– Facial Expressions

  • Barbara Pease is an author on Body Language. She says the average person speaks only about 10-11 min per day but that we make and recognize over 25,000 facial expressions daily.
  • Focus on Smiling:-Smiling is a powerful cue that communicates warmth, approachability, and makes our audience comfortable.
  • Smiling makes you look smarter. Research shows people who smile are more likely to be perceived as competent.  (Remember, our goal is to be believed.)
  • There is a difference in smiling with your eyes and just with your cheeks. Smile with me, now (Don’t feel silly, feel smarter!) 🙂 a genuine, authentic, and believable smile. (Good job!)

4– Gestures 

The Human Behavior Consultancy Group, Science of People (I mentioned earlier) wanted to answer the question: Why do some Ted Talks go viral?

  • They found the higher rated a talk was given, the more hand gestures the speaker used.
  • There is a correlation between a high number of gestures and a Ted Talk going viral!
  • Gestures add personality to your presentation
  • As a rule do not point.

5- Movement

Speech evaluators often mention movement or lack thereof.  I think, as an audience, we are really looking for natural movement. Standing locked frozen behind the lectern is just as distracting as spinning around it. My pastor gives the most compelling and compassionate sermons and rarely moves from behind the lectern.  However, he uses a ton of gestures. Key: Incorporate natural movement in your speeches.

One way you can incorporate movement into your speech or presentation is to Move With a Purpose.  There are several ways you can do this:

Move: (See video below for physical examples.)

  1. during your transitions. (Example: Walk to one side of the audience and talk about eye contact and then walk to the other side and talk about breath.)
  2. as in a physical place (Example: Move as if moving in rooms or places in a story.)
  3. replicating an action (Example: hitting a baseball)
  4. in a time timeline– Move from audience’s left to right, which will be your right to left. (Example: Jesus was born, (move to your left) crucified, (move left again) and He rose on the 3rd day) (See video below.) or
  5. when speaking about progress  (Example: Bad things (or old ideas) on left, good things (or new ideas) on right)
  6. Stand still when communicating the most important part of your message
  7. Leaning in/forward.  When you lean in, the audience tends to listen. Stepping forward creates warmth and engages your audience

Practice movements when you practice your speech and it will be natural.

6- Posture

People who take up more space tend to be more self assured and more confident.

We have always heard that posture/ sitting up straight gives others a good impression. But more than that, research also shows that body posture can affect not only what others think of you but also what we think of ourselves. One study notes that when students wrote positive thoughts about themselves, they rated themselves more highly when they had an upright position rather than a slouched position. End result: An upright position led to confidence in themselves, even though they didn’t realize that it is what was happening.

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist known for research on non-verbal behavior-  she says that if we pretend to be more powerful than we are more likely to be powerful.

Body Language Tips and Strategies

She did an experiment.  She FOCUSED on 2 hormones: testosterone and cortisol. (Think about characteristics you want in a leader.)

  • high testosterone: tend to be more powerful, opportunistic, assertive, and  confident
  • low cortisol- (cortisol is a stress hormone)  If cortisol is low than you tend to react well to stress.

She used 2 power poses:

  1. low power poses- folding up, making yourself smaller, trying to disappear and take up little space, perhaps touching neck or crossing arms.
  2. high power poses: hands held behind head, feet on desk, wonder woman pose, pride arms (touch down arms, posture when you win a race). It is interesting that blind people will do this stance after winning even though they have never seen anyone do it.  Basically, in the high power pose, you take up lots of room and make yourself BIGGER.

*Make a mental note of your posture

Experiment: She had 2 groups spit into a vile before and after the experiment.  Both groups did these power poses for only 2 minutes (120 seconds)!  Results were profound:

  • The group in the low power poses had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.
  • The group in high power poses had a 20% increase in testosterone & 25% decrease in cortisol.

ALL FROM CHANGING THEIR POSTURE!  They changed their brain (LITERALLY) by changing their posture. Reread.

Think about that.

  • Practice on way to your speech or presentation.
  • Practice all non-verbals. Make it a habit, a part of who you are.

If you want to get better at Body language:

Watch great speakers and their body language.

  • conferences, workshops, etc.
  • pastor
  • Watch TEDD talks- Turn down the volume on TV or online and learn from their body language.

Another great technique to overcome fear is to pray.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Pray for your topic. Pray for your message, Pray for your delivery, Pray for your audience.  Pray about everything.  Have someone pray for you before your speech. Prayer is effective way to access a peace that passes all understanding.

MOST Importantly:

Instead of coming in with an attitude of “Ugh, I have to give a speech”, come in with attitude of “I GET TO GIVE A SPEECH!” You are blessed to have the opportunity!

This is a phenomenal opportunity to learn to be the confident speaker that God needs you to be!

This is the speech I recently did for our Teen Gavel Club.

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