Laura Penn, Ph.D., is passionate about public speaking. As a Toastmasters European champion of public speaking, author of the book How to Enhance the Performance of Public Speaking: A Pocket Coach and the Founding Director of The Public Speaking School.com, she helps individuals become effective public speakers. Based in Switzerland, she provides custom-tailored, interactive training in public speaking for clients and organizations in the academic, not-for-profit and private sectors. She also serves as a speaker coach for a wide variety of TEDx events.
Why we should care about body language?
Body language has been around longer than spoken language. It has had more time to develop and evolve. Body language is to public speaking what wheels are to cars: it drives the message forward.
The biggest mistakes speakers make with their body language
The two biggest mistakes are:
- People don’t know what to do with their hands, people often put their hands in their pockets. Laura tells the people who she coaches to: “Just let your hands do what they want to do. Release them and let them speak with you.”
- Leaking energy from the feet. When people walk around the stage aimlessly without purpose, it is distracting for the audience and it makes them appear nervous.
Laura enjoys teaching participants in her workshops about the secret body language of feet. She says that the farther our body parts are from our brain, the less control we have over them, thus that is why, feet usually tell “the truth”.
Speakers must become Students of Body Language
Laura’s best piece of advice for effective body language is:
- You need to become a student of body language. Learn the vocabulary as you would learn French, Swahili or any other language. Read books, watch videos, and observe the people around you.
- Study yourself. Have a buddy watch your performances and give you feedback. Video yourself and watch yourself in action.
- Study others. Watch what other people are doing. At that point you are understanding and “speaking the language.” Observe people you admire and emulate their gestures.
[When it comes to good acting and public speaking skills] “It’s gotta sound like you’re making stuff up and that you’ve never said it before” – William H. Macy
Presence by Patsy Rodenburg
Routine to Shine
Work hard to memorize your speech so that it feels like it’s a part of your DNA. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Once your speech has been internalized and it feels like it’s a part of you, you are likely to experience “speaker’s bliss”. This is a wonderful sensation that fills your body with joy and enables you fully be in tune with what you are doing. It also connects you to the audience and allows you to freestyle, flex and improvise with your speech, blending your learned content with things that you make up on the spot.
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