By Deborah Torres-Patel
Your body speaks before you do.
Your posture and your body language telegraph how you feel about yourself and set the tone for your presentation. Your audience may not remember exactly what you say, but they will remember the feeling that your presence created.
You convey immediately how you feel about yourself—as well as your level of leadership and social status—when you make an entrance, when you walk, when you sit, when you stand, when you move about.
To master your body language on stage, we’re going to look at three key areas:
- Your body language when walking.
- The stature when standing
- Your posture when sitting
Begin with the end in mind: walk with the outcome you’d like to achieve, to be purposeful in your mind to create the environment for people to really hear and experience your communication. You control the speed that matches the outcome you want. If you walk slowly, you will be easing into your presentation in a laid-back manner, which will create a relaxed environment. But in most cases, you’ll want to walk more powerfully and energetically.
If your outcome or intention is to instill confidence in your audience, you walk directly from point A to point B, where you will choose your stopping point to establish a strong beginning. Look ahead to where you’re going and plant yourself front and center. Stand in stature with confidence before you even open your mouth to speak. Match the way you move to your message.
You can assume different postures to build the energy you need to convey executive presence and confidence. I call these the four pillars of presence
- No unnecessary movement
- Good posture
- Being centered
- Staying grounded
Stand firm from the waist down with your feet parallel, ideally with your toes facing forward. The primary reason for this is to maintain visual credibility. Be aware that if you’re standing on a raised platform, your feet are at your audience’s eye level. Find a comfortable standing position. This will normally be with your feet somewhere between hip and shoulder distance apart. Stand up tall with head held high. Chest forward with shoulders relaxed. Be aware of your center of gravity. Don’t shift weight side to side, pace around, or nervously move back and forth. Maintain a comfortable hip- or shoulder-width stance (knees and feet aligned). Stand firm, with good support for your breath. Imagine that your energy fills the room—be larger than life. Imagine that when you gesture or when you speak across the room that you could embrace or envelop everyone in your web.
If you’re sitting down during a presentation, imagine that you’re royalty on the throne. Carry yourself with authority and gravitas even when seated. Just as when you are standing, you want to sit with excellent stature.
“When you’re standing or sitting in stature, you should feel like your best self: confident, dignified, valuable, sovereign,” writes my dear friend and mentor Arthur Samuel Joseph in his book Vocal Power. “But this is not a rigid position . . . be comfortable in your body.”You can sit and gesture in a way that’s comfortable for you. “Imagine a sensation,” Arthur writes, “like the pull of a thread, lifting us from the top of our heads. Sitting in this manner helps us to breathe freely, remain conscious of our Self, and lift our upper torsos. It opens, releases, settles, and balances us—and it is a major tenet of vocal power.”
These methods lead to mastery one step at a time. You can take these steps incrementally. When you do this practical physical work with your body, your voice is primed to follow.
The above text is excerpted from Deborah Torres-Patel’s upcoming book, Speak Like a Superstar. Deborah helps leaders communicate with unshakeable confidence and master influential voice, presentation and public speaking skills. She is a ForbesSpeakers Member and Partner, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a member of Asia Professional Speakers Association, Global Speakers Federation, International Coach Federation, US National Teachers of Singing Association and has been a guest faculty member at numerous universities including University of California Los Angeles, National University of Singapore, and Hong Kong Baptist University.