Body Language for More Powerful Speaking

If you are a teacher, you lead workshops or board meetings, are a public speaker, or a mentor, all of these involve speaking in front of people and being convincing. Out of your entire toolbox full of resources including experience, education, a robust vocabulary, a great way of connecting with others, one of the most important skills is the skill of body language.

It is an incredibly powerful way of conveying your emotions, and is often something we are not aware of. It can undermine your point or help drive it home. It can make you seem strong, and confident, or it can make you seem unsure. It can even bore your audience and lead them to to tune you out.

So what are the biggest, best tips for using body language as a public speaker?


Look the part: when you dress for the day, take a look at your clothes and see if they show you as an authority. Do you look the part? This can range from black-tie evening wear to a hoodie and sneakers, as long as you dress the way an expert would dress.

Stance: Stand tall, and make sure your stance is wide enough to support you, without being aggressive. Don’t lock your knees or you might get lightheaded. Use your hands to gesture, don’t keep them hanging at your side or in your pockets. Keep your gestures simple and strong, don’t overdo it and be a “hand-talker”. Look at videos of presidents and how they punctuate the emotional language with strong gestures, but tell the story with their words, not their hands.

Energy: Keep the energy high by using your space. Don’t stand stiff behind a lectern or desk. Don’t pace around nervously, but movement keeps your speech dynamic and engaging. Make sure that you end your phrases as a statement, not as a question. You want to seem certain, not constantly asking for approval. Make sure to pause for key moments or right after a story, but don’t pause too long or pause in the middle of a thought. Turn nervous energy into excited energy by pumping yourself up before the speech. Don’t talk too fast, though!

Connect with the audience: Look into their eyes, not just at a crowd of faceless people. Smile at them, feel free to ask an actual question and wait for a response. The most compelling part of a speech is feeling like the speaker understood you, even though you never said a word to them.

Speak in front of a mirror: watch your facial expressions, your fidgeting habits, your shoulders. Make sure you recognize which actions and expressions you do without thinking, and make sure that you control them or use them to your benefit.

Breathe: Make sure that you keep anxiety in check and the flow of your speech by practicing the right parts to breathe. Breathe deeply and consistently.

Power poses: This video is the most watched TED talk of all time, and discusses the mental impact that holding a powerful stance can have on your brain chemistry and emotion, making you feel more powerful before going out on stage.