Effective public speeches: a guide on nonverbal communication

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Election fever is getting higher every day, and it is once more a season of politicians giving one speech after another. While we are fond of hearing what our potential leaders have to say, an equally important way of evaluating them is by looking at how they communicate nonverbally.

Those who practice public relations are very well aware that the way something is said is just as important as the contents of what is said. While leaders have to be conscious of the words they use, they too have to be conscious of what their body communicates in every occasion. For a presidential candidate, the occasion might require a speech about his platform. There might be instances wherein he has to face opponents in a public debate and be interviewed, or possibly grilled, by the media.

For those in the corporate world, the occasion could be a pitch for an account you are trying to win. It could be a presentation to your bosses, or an important event for the company or a client.

In all these instances, body posture, facial expressions, gestures, and even how space is used can reinforce the points you are making. They can project confidence and power, or give away your uncertainties and the things you are trying to hide.

Here are a few tips for making meaningful and powerful nonverbal communication when delivering important speeches:

Proper Attire 

Proper Attire 

1. Dress appropriately and look presentable

At first glance, a member of the audience can judge your credibility based on how you dress. A shabby appearance can tarnish your credibility in an instant. Dressing inappropriately is an indication that you do not know what you are getting into.

Your choice of outfit should depend on the event. In formal gatherings, audiences often think that those wearing darker clothing look more trustworthy and respectable. Clothes in lighter or brighter colors can work in less formal occasions, but they can also help you stand out especially when addressing large crowds.

Speak Up

Speak Up

2. Vary your use of voice

Aside from being another indicator of credibility, the quality of your voice can have a certain impact on the crowd. Most people find deep voices more attractive compared with voices that sound shrill or high-pitched.

We’d love to have a voice like Morgan Freeman’s, but not everyone was born with that gift. However, there are vocalization and breathing exercises that can help you achieve a lower, deeper voice.

Delivering lines also calls for the need to vary the tone, pace, and pitch of your voice to keep the audience engaged. One of the last things an audience wants to hear is a monotonous speech with an obvious pattern.

Maintain Eye-Contact

Maintain Eye-Contact

3. Look at your audience

When we were first taught to read aloud in class, we were taught to look at the audience once in a while. Your eyes tell your listeners that you are talking to them, not at them. Additionally, though it is important to look at different members of your audience, moving your eyes too much can make you seem distracted. Eyes also convey emotion and help you connect with the audience better.

When delivering a speech, you can direct a phrase or sentence with your eyes to a specific part of your audience who you think can relate to those specific words. By looking at your audience meaningfully, your message has a better chance of striking the heart.

Use Gestures

Use Gestures

4. Maximize the power of your hands and arms

The way you move your arms and hands can help you emphasize points, convey a sense of power, and magnifying your presence. As gestures convey different types of messages, it is advantageous for a public speaker to know which ones to use, and which ones to avoid.

For example, pointing a finger or closing your fist sends an aggressive message, and you should be careful not to direct that aggression towards your audience. Crossing your arms is also ill-advised because it puts you on a defensive stance. By opening your arms, you make yourself look approachable. If you would like to point to your audience, it is better to do so with an open palm instead of pointing at them with a finger.

Now that you know which nonverbal cues you should be aware, here are a few more reminders you might find useful for your next speech.

First, always be prepared. Take the time to rehearse your delivery, but do not deliver your message in a way that makes you look robotic or unnatural. Second, be sincere. When you mean what you say, your body becomes attuned to your speech and is able to communicate more effectively.

With the holiday season well on its way, it will soon be time for Christmas messages and year-end speeches. Watch out for our tips on how you can pull off the best year-end message.