Just as everything is bigger in Texas, everything is bigger at a trade show or other large-scale event: the room, the stage, the audience, and of course… the stakes! There’s a great deal riding on main stage presentations and other large industry events. You’ll be conveying your message to hundreds or even thousands of people. You want to do everything you can to stand out, be heard and make the right impression on your listeners.
That’s why it’s critically important to project an image and a presence that are matched to the room and the event. On a big stage, you need to be larger than life to grab people’s attention and engage them in the conversation.
What are you saying with your body language?
Even the most experienced veteran presenters can be uncomfortable perhaps anxious before getting up in front of a large group (or even a smaller one). When we feel this way, our body language often reflects our emotions and we may unconsciously stand in a closed posture that makes us appear smaller.
When you’re experiencing those nerves, it helps to bring to mind someone or something that gives you confidence. When I was growing up and facing something that made me nervous or uncertain, my favorite aunt, Auntie Terry, would give me a pep talk. “Stephanie, stand tall, shoulders back, hold your head high, take a breath and smile … remembering you are a SCOTTI!” Today, those words still echo in my head when I am about to walk in front of a room to present.
Walk the walk so you can talk the talk
Projecting confidence starts with your entrance. Walk onto the stage with a stride that communicates your pleasure to be there. As you make your way to the podium, imagine that you’re filling the room with your energy to build the crowd’s anticipation of your presentation.
Assume the position: Speaker Stance
Speaker stance is all about using your posture to communicate presence and poise. Remember Auntie Terry’s advice: stand tall and erect with your shoulders back. Ground this posture by keeping your feet shoulder width apart (if it’s more comfortable place one foot slightly in front of the other) and don’t forget to greet your audience with a smile.
Do you ever feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what to do with your arms when you speak? Here’s how to fix that: bend your arms at the elbow, resting them between your waist and shoulder. Keeping your arms in this position accomplishes several things:
- It keeps your gestures visible – not hidden behind the podium.
- The muscular support helps ensure gestures have some control and appear purposeful.
Avoid Milk Toast
While your walk and your stance are essential to projecting a confident, professional presence, I’ll let you in on a secret technique that can make the difference between appearing like milk toast (limp and wimpy) versus Texas Toast (big and bold).
In a smaller speaking situation, like a meeting in a small conference room holding 30 people or so, your natural gestures would come from your lower arms. You’ve probably done this countless times without realizing it. Go ahead and try it: stand up and say a few familiar sentences, and notice how you primarily gesture from your elbows to your wrists to help communicate your message.
This style of gesturing is appropriate and works well in a setting where you’re physically close to the people you are addressing. These moderate motions serve to emphasize your points without being too overpowering.
However, the same gestures and stances you use with a small group come across very differently in a large setting. If you’re on a stage addressing a big crowd, these small, lower arm gestures can make you look like you’re shrinking instead of commanding the large presence you need to gain the attention of your listeners.
Go for Texas Toast
Try your speaker stance again. Like before, stand tall with your shoulders back. But this time, stand with your arms slightly extended in front of you, with palms up as though you’re handing something to the audience. As you say a few sentences, use your shoulders to life your arms higher and gesture as if you are reaching up and out to your audience.
For your listeners, this posture and gesturing style gets their attention and shows them your desire to connect. This is turn makes them want to listen to what you have to say.
The Power Pose: what’s in it for you?
Assuming the right posture when you speak doesn’t just make you APPEAR more powerful to the audience, it actually helps you FEEL that way!
We’ve known for a long time that our state of mind can cause changes in our bodies. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard University, has proven that the reverse is also true: our bodies can change our state of mind. Her studies show that certain body stances can dramatically change our emotions: adopting power poses for only a few minutes dramatically raises testosterone (power hormone) and decreases cortisol (stress hormone). Learn more about power poses and try it for yourself.
How did that last gesturing exercise make you feel? The speaker stance and big gestures are power poses that can make you feel more powerful, confident, energized, and more open to your audience.
Try these tips to super-size your speaker stance and your gestures for your next main stage presentation. You’re sure to get bigger and better results!