Presentations: Your Body language… Asset or Enemy?

By David Rose

You’ve prepared your presentation content and slides, your key messages are well-structured, clear and consistent, you’ve incorporated a range of techniques to ensure you are  engaging and memorable and rehearsed your content well to make sure you’re fluent and comfortable…

So, you’re 100% prepared and ready to go… or are you?

Consider this definition:

“Body Language (Noun): The gestures, movements and mannerisms by which a person communicates with others.”

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Key concept 1: body language is communication, not just a ‘garnish’ to a presentation

Now, let’s also turn to the summary result of large quantities of international research in the corporate and institutional sectors into what really contributes to ‘effectiveness’ and ‘impact’ in professional communication, especially in forming the crucial ‘first impression’:

Importance of Body Language in Communication







Key concept 2: body language can have more real impact on our audience than voice, tone or choice of words.

So, unless you’ve seriously considered your body language – for example how and when you move, your range of gestures and when and why you will use them, the overall image you project – you’re ready for only one thing…

…to underperform.


1. Which aspects of body language demand consideration?

Five areas need to be ‘consciously managed’ when presenting: eye contact, posture, hand gestures and position, facial gestures and movement.

(a) Eye contact

Maintaining and equally dividing your eye contact around the room is arguably the core presentation skill – making and maintaining appropriate eye contact with all your audience is crucial to engaging them and keeping their attention and interest.

Eye ContactTop Tips

Vary your focus in a cycle: e.g. centre-left-right, centre-right-left

Ensure you don’t fix only on the ‘friendly’ faces

(b) Posture

Question: What’s the biggest no-no (don’t do) when it comes to posture?

Answer: Regularly turning your back on to your audience to talk to your slides – not them (even if ‘hiding’ can be tempting if you’re feeling nervous…!)

Posture in Presentations

Top Tips

Keep your feet at ‘10 minutes to 2’ in your default stance. When you turn to the side to indicate a slide, you’ll naturally turn back

● Mix turning and pointing at your slides with referring to them orally without turning to point e.g. “as you can see in point 2/in the table/on the left of the slide”

(c) Hand gestures

Your hands are another crucial tool in delivering effective presentations: confident hand gestures add dynamism, emphasis and rhythm to your spoken messages.

Hand Gestures in Presentations

Top Tips

Avoid ‘spare hand syndrome’ – hold a ‘prop’ in your spare hand – e.g. a slide clicker, laser pointer or other – so you don’t have to worry about what to do with it!

(d) Facial gestures

Question: Have you ever seen a presenter experience any of the following?

– Strong nerves at the start

– Obviously forget what was coming next

– Receive a question they didn’t want/expect

Question: How did you know?

I’m quite sure the first thing that meant you noticed these ‘problems’ was their facial expression – hesitant, worried etc.

Facial Gestures in Presentations

Top Tips

Pause regularly during your presentation – i.e. a two-second pause between messages and sections. This will help manage your speed and lower the risk of momentarily losing your place

When answering questions, even if you feel confident about the specific question you’ve just received, pause for a few seconds rather than ‘jumping in’.

(e) Movement

If you’re standing to present, it’s obviously inappropriate to stand ‘statue-like’ the whole time…

…so how exactly should you move?

When done well, movement at strategic points in your presentation can help you better engage your audience and so keep their attention.

In order to appear natural, however, your movement needs to be planned.

Movement in presentations

Top Tips

At pre-decided moments, you can change position, for example:

– Move from one side of the screen to the other at the transition from one slide/section to another

– Approach the screen to highlight key features on a table/figure/graph/set of key points, returning to your default position immediately after

– Approach the audience centrally to make a crucial point, returning to your default position immediately after

Wrap up

So, in simple conclusion:

Conscious, planned and consistent body language is an essential, must-have of an effective presentation.

Mastering a wide range of techniques and tips allows you to not only ensure your body language becomes an asset, but also personalise your style to what comfortably suits you.


Does your organisation need training? Contact me at to benefit from my consultancy’s personalised, highly practical and cost-effective communication training services.

Visit to download a full catalogue of our training offer.

We offer made to measure training for:

● Presentations (core skills and advanced techniques)

● Public Speaking (speeches, press conferences, interviews)

● Professional Writing (reports, memos, briefings, minutes)

● Writing for Impact (web, position papers, policy papers)

● Meetings Facilitation/Chairing

© David Rose LACS Training 2014

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