When you are out there in front of an audience, whether in a small or big crowd, your body movements play an important role in the effectiveness of delivering your message. Successful speakers have this uncanny quality to make their movements on stage so natural that it blends perfectly well with their use of intonation and inflection in their voice and speech delivery. If at all, their seemingly fluid motion lends an emphatic effect on what they are saying and the way their body harmonizes with their voice becomes a perfect tool for delivering a successful speech.
Unfortunately, if you are not aware of this, you may end up making body movements that become more of a distraction than an enhancement to your talk. Your audience's focus will be drawn away from what you are saying by these annoying movements and you will soon lose their attention.
Certain mannerisms may be deemed distracting like fidgeting, swaying, licking or biting your lips, frowning without reason, tapping fingers on the podium, flailing your arms inappropriately, bobbing your head, or even simply fussing with your hair.
Most mannerisms stem from anxiety and stage fright. What is more bothersome is that more often than not, you are not even aware that you are doing them. If you plan on presenting a commanding presence on stage, you need to make sure that your movements as you speak are planned and controlled in a manner that they complement your speech and enhance the effectiveness of your words. Beyond these planned movements, other actions may turn out distracting.
These mannerisms are usually difficult to avoid because they have been ingrained into your subconscious and happen automatically. But you need to at least try to minimize if not eliminate them totally. Here is a six-step way to help you get rid of these distracting body movements.
1. Record the way you talk on video. This would be best done in one of your actual speaking engagements. If you can get the organizers of the event to shoot a video of you while you are delivering your talk and give you a copy of it, it would be a win-win proposition. They get a record of your speech for later review and viewing while you get a live recording of how you deliver a talk. If they can't tape your entire session for whatever reason, ask if they can record even a portion of it for your copy. You can tell them that it's for your portfolio.
If that option is not possible, you may have to bring your own videographer. Even if it will cost you, it would still be a good investment since you can use this video to review your speaking style and at the same time may be included in your portfolio.
2. Review your video to spot the presence of distracting mannerisms. This might prove to be a revelation to you since you may not even be aware you are making these mannerisms in the first place. List all the mannerisms you have spotted and make a conscious note to avoid them whenever you rehearse for future talks. If you can, record yourself again while you are practicing and review your mannerisms until you are satisfied you have reduced them to a minimum.
If you are going to use the live talk video you recorded for your portfolio, just cut snippets of it that highlight your best parts of that speech you delivered and make sure you edit out those where you display distracting movements.
3. Work on delivering your speech as natural as possible. Practice speaking about your topic as comfortably as you can. Note that mannerisms manifest themselves when you are tense and anxious and relaxing yourself will ease them away. Especially if you are passionate about the topic that you are talking of, just let yourself be absorbed by the experience of relating something that you are very much interested in. Imagine yourself like you are just simply sharing information with close friends whom you are quite comfortable with.
4. Work on reducing and managing your nervousness associated with public speaking. Once you become more comfortable with delivering your talk as a result of #3, you will notice that working on your version of stage fright also becomes a lot easier. Also, by realizing that the fear of speaking in public is natural and happens to everyone, this will help you deal with it more confidently. That queasy feeling of butterflies in your stomach usually dissipates within the first five minutes of your talk if you just let yourself flow into the rhythm of your presentation and once you get your confidence kicking in, your anxiety will disappear altogether.
5. Replace your mannerisms with more productive body movements. When you review your video tapes a second time around, spot the places in your speech where you can add more meaningful gestures and body movements that will emphasize the points you would like your audience to absorb. Aside from improving your delivery by removing distracting movements, you will raise your presentation a notch higher by making it more interesting and engaging.
6. Refine your body movements to make them as natural as possible. Through practice, continuously work on making your body movements a natural part of your talk and as tightly integrated with your overall presentation. Fine tune your movements by adding facial expressions where necessary and practice making eye contact with your listeners to optimize your rapport.
Work on these six steps and you will soon find yourself becoming a better speaker more and more. Not only will you lose distracting movements that will divert your listeners' attention but you will improve your delivery and make your audience glued to your presentation even more.