Department of Communication

Nonverbal Delivery Tips

Hand gestures can add a nicely subtle touch to your delivery, or can become the most distracting element of the presentation.

  1. Try to make every gesture natural, appropriate, and consistent both with the ideas in the message and with your own personality. If you are giving an impassioned plea to raise money for cancer research, gestures may seem more natural than if you are lecturing on the problems banks are having with loans to underdeveloped countries.
  2. Stand straight with your arms bent at the waist and your hands relaxed, at the "ready" position. Try not to clasp your hands together. This makes gesturing impossible except if you're willing to raise both hands at once. Also, it is important not to hug your body, hang your hands at the crotch, lock your hands behind your back, or grasp and lean into the lecture.
  3. Pay attention to the position of your elbows. If they hang stiffly at your sides, your gestures will look shortened and artificial. To move your hands and forearms freely, make sure there's plenty or room between your elbows and your body.
  4. You can tell if your gestures are effective by checking where your listeners are looking. If they are focusing on the movement of your arms or hands instead of your face, your gestures may well be a distraction rather than a help.

Bodily action is an important element of nonverbal communication because the audience focuses primarily on the speaker.

  1. Be natural, relaxed, and reasonable. Don't pace back and forth, sway, or lean over the podium.
  2. As important as how you act during the speech is what you do just before you begin and after you finish. You will look nervous or unenthusiastic if you plod to the lectern or rush back to your seat. Try to appear calm, poised, and confident before and after you speech.

Eye contact is the most immediate form of nonverbal feedback--you can gauge how the audience is reacting as well as look prepared.

  1. Don't keep your eyes glued to your notes.
  2. Don't look just above the heads of your listeners. Although this advice is often given to speakers, it will be obvious to everyone that you are gazing into the air.
  3. You will feel more comfortable during your presentation if you choose to look at people who are giving you positive feedback. Then switch your attention to another part of the room and engage someone else's gaze. In the end, distribute your gaze evenly around the room.
  4. At the same time, avoid the tendency to dart your eyes around the room or to sweep the room with your eyes. Instead, try to hold eye contact with a single person for a single thought. (This may be measured in a phrase or a sentence.)

Facial expressions are especially important in communicating emotions--your anger and fear, boredom and excitement, doubt and surprise etc. Nervousness and anxiety may at times prevent you from relaxing enough so that your emotions come through. Here are some suggestions for facial expression:

  1. Avoid the two common problems of facial expression: too little and too much.
  2. Keep your facial expression consistent with the ideas. Try not to look gloomy when you are giving a wedding toast. Nor should you look happy when you deliver a eulogy.
  3. Eliminate any distracting facial expressions. For example, try not to smile out of nervousness.

Posture influences your ability to project your voice and influences your credibility.

  1. When delivering your speech, stand straight but not stiff. Try to communicate a command of the situation without communicating discomfort that is actually quite common for beginning speakers.
  2. Try to avoid the common mistakes of posture such as putting your hands in your pockets or leaning on the desk, the podium, or the chalkboard.

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