31 Delivery Advice: Do Not Imagine the Audience Naked! Managing Eye Contact, Movement, and Gestures

Lynn Meade


Woman giving a speech

You can speak well
if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
– John Ford, celebrated Irish American director

 In this chapter, I will give you some practical tips to help you strengthen your presentation skills and I want to steer you away from some of the bad advice out there.  The best things you can do when it comes to presentation skills are (1) believe you can improve with practice and (2) realize connection, not perfection is the goal.

Believe You Can Improve

When you think about speaking are you tempted to believe, “Some people are just born good speakers” or “I just wasn’t made for this public speaking stuff.” If that is you, you may have what Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.” She suggested that we have a fixed mindset– people are just born to be good at things or we have a growth mindset–people, with effort, can learn new skills.

When it comes to public speaking, you should work on having a growth mindset and acknowledge that effort is needed for mastery. You can improve, but it may take work. Especially with public speaking, practice equals progress. Adjusting your belief to a growth mindset frees your self-limiting beliefs and allows you to move beyond what you thought was possible.

Those who think they got their success from effort often can go farther than those who believe success is due to their natural ability.  The key to making the change is to continually recognize your effort: “I gave it my best, I really stretched myself today, I put a lot of time into this, and I can tell it made a difference.” In addition, Dweck suggests the simple change of adding the word “yet” to your self vocabulary helps keep you growth-focused. Instead of saying, “I’m not good a public speaking,” say “I’m not good at public speaking yet.” Believe if you work hard enough, and practice enough, and get help when needed, you can improve and grow.

The Power of YET

Avoid saying, “I can’t do this”
but rather say “I can’t do this yet

In one case, you are telling your brain to quit trying
in the other version, you allow yourself to be open to possibilities.

Never say, “I’m not good at public speaking.”
but rather say, “I may not be a perfect speaker yet but what I have to say is important
so I will work and keep getting better at it.”


Believing you can improve is an important first step. In my many years of teaching public speaking, I have witnessed some of the most insecure, timid speakers rise to become confident, and powerful in only a few months. I have seen a student who ran out of the class crying on her first speech, be voted the best speaker by her last speech. I have watched a student who stumbled over every word, evolve into a powerful speaker who delivers speeches to large groups every week.  Some people seem to know how to succeed at public speaking naturally, but for most of us, it takes work.  Realize with practice, you can improve as a speaker. If you are one of those lucky natural speakers, realize you too have room to improve. Now, let’s talk about two specific presentation skills where you can improve–eye contact and gestures.

To get started, I want to tell you some of the worst speaking advice I have ever been given.


Eye Contact

Bad Advice–Look at Their Foreheads

I had a teacher in high school who told me, “Don’t make eye contact with the audience because they will make you nervous. Don’t look at their eyes–look at their foreheads.” Just for fun, walk up to a friend and begin to speak to their forehead to see how they react. Really, try it.  It just looks weird. Chances are your friend will say, “What the heck are you doing?”  That is the same thing your audience will think if you stare at their foreheads. Honestly, it is harder to focus on foreheads than it is to look in the eyes.

Bad Advice–Imagine Your Audience Naked

A well-meaning friend told me, “Just imagine your audience naked.” Maybe you too have heard this advice, and it is the worst. If you are in my audience and I imagine you naked, I guarantee there will be NO EYE CONTACT. No eye contact at all! One speech coach said, “Depending on your audience, this is too exciting or too disgusting.”  This piece of advice is designed to make you feel more at ease, but it doesn’t work. I do not know about you, but the thought of speaking to a room full of naked people does not make me feel relaxed.

Bad Advice– Stare at Random Spots Above Their Heads

I have heard this one multiple times from well-meaning teachers. “Look at the back wall.”  If you look over the person, you miss the person. Ask yourself, why is eye contact so frightening? Is it because there is a person connected to those eyes? Is it because if we look at the person, we have to acknowledge their existence?  One nonverbal researcher says, “Eye contact makes interaction an obligation.” If I make eye contact, I must recognize I am speaking to a real person with feelings, expectations, and dreams. If I make eye contact, I must realize a speech is an interaction and I have an obligation to that person. If I make eye contact, I become much more aware they expect something from me and I feel obligated not to waste their time. 

The other reason this is bad advice is it makes you look odd, and you will lose credibility with the audience.  It is a strange thing to talk to walls. If you are a speaker, it looks strange for you to look over the audience’s heads to stare at the wall.  I guarantee the audience feels strange when you do it. Even in a large audience where you can’t make eye contact with everyone, you should at least find people throughout the room to look at.

Bad Advice– Follow the Eye Contact Formula

A lot of well-meaning advisors will say things like “Make eye contact for 3-5 seconds with each person” (the three-second rule) or “scan the audience from left to right” (the lighthouse technique) or “find three places in the room and look to those” (the umpire technique). The advice is not entirely bad, but the problem is it puts too much pressure on the speaker. If I am counting the seconds or working on the perfect eye contact pattern, then I am missing the point of being conversational.

Good Advice on Eye Contact

The most important advice I can give you on eye contact is to JUST DO IT. Find friendly faces around the room and look at them. Find those nice people who smile and nod and then begin looking at them in the room. Looking at them helps you gauge whether they are listening.

When speaking to a large audience, you may have to make audience contact instead of eye contact. Look at various areas where the audience members are seated to create the feeling that you are looking at them.

Benefits of Eye Contact

There are many benefits to making good eye contact. Communication researcher Steven Beebe conducted a study where he discovered an increase in eye contact increases a speaker’s perceived credibility. Other research suggests eye contact impacts focus memory, and recall. Eye contact helps the audience to see you as credible, and to remember your message more–what is not to love about that?

Watch the video, below by Dananjaya Hettiarachchi and notice how he looks directly at audience members. It is obvious why he is the world champion.

Practical Tips for Maximizing Eye Contact

  • If you struggle with eye contact, at the top of every page of your notes write–“Make eye contact.”
  • Have your friends sit at various places throughout the room so you have a few friendly eyes you can talk to.
  • Practice with people. Sure, it is helpful to record yourself, to practice talking to a wall, and to speak to a mirror, but those are no substitutes for what happens when you speak to people. Find some friends and practice with them. Chris Anderson, of TED, says: “Perhaps the most important physical act onstage is making eye contact. Find five or six friendly-looking people in different parts of the audience and look them in the eye as you speak. Think of them as friends you haven’t seen in a year, whom you’re bringing up to date on your work.”

Computer meeting

Eye Contact in Online Presentations

Increasingly, business presentations are being made in the online environment. The pandemic forced schools to use online learning tools where teachers give lectures online and students give presentations online.  In addition, many businesses are conducting job interviews through virtual platforms. It is likely you will encounter an online speech and it is helpful to understand the unique differences. If you are making your presentations online, eye contact means looking into the camera. Draw a smiley face on a notecard and tape it beside your camera to remind you to look at your audience. It is tempting to try to make eye contact with the faces on your screen, and it is OK to look at the faces on the screen to remind you of your audience but spend the majority of your presentation time looking into the eyes of the camera.

It can be helpful to tape your notecards on a wall behind your computer or phone screen so you can glance at them briefly and then speak directly to your audience. Do not try to read your speech off your computer or phone screen; it will be obvious to the audience you are reading.


Cultural Note

Eye contact can vary from culture to culture and person to person. Just because an audience member looks away from you, it may not mean they are not interested. Consider the following differences.

  • In some cultures, it would be considered inappropriate to make eye contact with someone of different gender (or sex).
  • When in a high-power culture (a culture where those in power are given higher status and have deferential body language), you may notice those in lower status lower their eyes or avoid eye contact with those of higher status.
  • Arabs, Latin Americans, and Southern Europeans tend to make direct eye contact
  • Those from Asia and parts of Africa tend to make less eye contact.
  • Those on the Autism Spectrum may avoid eye contact to help them focus on the words you are saying.



All you need is something to say,
and a burning desire to say it…
it doesn’t matter where your hands are.”
Lou Holtz, former Arkansas Razorback football coach


Isn’t it funny how we rarely notice what our hands are doing while we are talking? When we get up there to give a speech, suddenly we are aware of our hands, and we can’t figure out what to do with them. One of the frequently asked questions I hear is, “What do I do with my hands?” The short answer is to relax and gesture naturally. Vivian Buchan, author of Make Presentations with Confidence suggests, “The only place a gesture comes from is inside you. Gestures come from your heart and soul, your instincts, your interests, and your involvement.” She suggests focusing on your speech and your passion and the gestures will work themselves out. The more you practice your speech, the more you will feel confident gesturing.

“Great speakers keep their body open” according to Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, 2014 Toastmasters International world champion of public speaking. “Failing to make gestures or holding your hands tightly in front of you makes you look insecure.  When you’re nervous, you try to cover your vital organs.” It is OK to feel nervous, the goal is to try and not look nervous. Public speaking instructor Cathy Hollingsworth offered this nugget of advice:

So many times, when speakers are telling a story to their friends in person or even via the phone, gestures are big and descriptive but when speakers get in front of an audience, all of sudden, arms and hands become appendages that have no apparent purpose.  This is what I tell speakers: Use your gestures as “bodily visual aids”. Pretend you are in a situation in which there are no electronics to show slides nor is there a whiteboard. How will you get your ideas across to the audience? Easy! Just use your gesturing to take the audience along with you on the speech. Be brave enough to make those gestures big and at least shoulder high.  This is not charades, but it is close.

Gestures help you look like a polished speaker. Vanessa Van Edwards did a study and found the top TED talk speakers made an average of 465 gestures in 18 minutes while the less popular speakers made 272 gestures. The top speakers gestured almost twice as much.  Gestures not only increase a speaker’s credibility but speakers who gesture are seen as more persuasive and more likable.  According to Vanessa van Edwards, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” She found people rated speakers similarly on charisma, credibility, and intelligence whether they saw the speech with the sound on or off.

When speakers gesture, listeners are better able to learn the content. People who were instructed to gesture while learning new information, had better recall of information. That sounds like a good study tip!

It’s not just your audience that will be helped by your gestures, you will be helped as well. Did you know people who are born blind gesture in some of the same ways sighted individuals do? How do they know to gesture? Why do they gesture? They gesture because it seems to be something they are hardwired to do. They gesture because it seems to help the speaker to think and speak more clearly. I often have my students sit on their hands and then tell a story about their weekend or give directions to their favorite restaurant. It is amazing how many of them struggle to think of directions when they can’t move.  It might be said you think with your hands. In a study where they asked children to talk about a game they played, those who gestured while speaking told more details and they spoke with fewer hesitations. The authors suggested gesturing reduces cognitive load.  It is easier to hold up your hands and say “The fish I caught is this big” than it is to say, “the fish I caught was big. He was about 10 inches long.”  Gestures give us a shortcut to speaking.

In addition, gestures beat out the rhythm of the speech. They help us synchronize our words to our speech.  Typically, we speak in chunks of about four to five syllables called a phonemic clause. At the end of that chunk, we tend to gesture. Try it for yourself. I wrote the phrases as most people say them (phonemic clause). Say these phrases out loud and see what gestures you do naturally.

I don’t know where they are

I’ve looked everywhere

I simply cannot remember

where I put my keys.

They were right there table

last night.

Read it again. This time, notice you naturally gesture right before the last beat of the phrase. Gestures don’t come after the phrase, they come during the phrase. You can tell if someone has been speech coached poorly because they will gesture after the phrase. It looks unnatural.

Man gesturing

Gestures are Good

  • They are good for the audience’s attention to your speech.
  • They are good for the audience’s recall of the speech.
  • They help you as a speaker to be more fluid in speaking.
  • They help to reduce your cognitive load.
  • They help you keep the rhythm in your speech.

With all this information, you know you should gesture throughout your speech. One way to loosen up and find your own gestures is what I call, “getting funky.” After you have your speech written, sing your speech, say it in a funny accent, or rap it while in the shower. As silly as this sounds, it will help relax you and in those funky practices, you will find you begin having more free-flowing gestures.

Students in Dale Carnegie classes often do the Box Factory activity to help them learn to use their whole bodies in their speech.

Dale Dunphy posted as part of a Dale Carnegie course, he had to tell a story of the Box Factory with enthusiasm and emphasize certain words. Other participants talked about the importance of telling the story with their whole bodies.
The Box Factory
I found myself yesterday near a huge box factory located on a high hill.
Running all around this building was a picket fence about this high.
I walked up to the factory, threw open the door, walked in, and found myself in a long hallway.
At the far end of the hallway was a spiral staircase.
I walked up this spiral staircase, pushed open a sliding door, and found myself in a big room piled high with boxes.
There were big boxes, middle-sized boxes, and very small boxes.
Suddenly, the boxes came tumbling down around my head!
I woke with a start, yawned, stretched, and went back to sleep.
Watch this short clip from Dale Carnegie Training of Western CT as they do this activity.
As silly as activities like this one may seem, they help speakers to relax and to use their whole bodies in speeches.


What NOT to Do with Your Hands

  • Do NOT put both hands in your pockets.
  • Do NOT jingle keys or change in your pocket.
  • Do NOT hold hands clasped behind your back.
  • Do NOT fidget with your pen, necklace.
  • Do NOT tap or pound on the podium.
  • Do NOT rest your hands on the podium.
  • Do NOT wring hands.
  • Do NOT play with your hair.
  • Do NOT fidget with your clothing.
  • Do NOT pick your fingernails.
  • Do NOT fiddle with notecards.


When you feel yourself getting nervous, touch your index finger to your thumb, it is a self-soothing gesture

Advanced Gestures

Some of you are still working on relaxing enough to gesture. That is OK, it takes time and like any other skill, with practice, you will get better. Others of you have spoken long enough you are wanting to take your gestures to the next level, this section is for you.

Sabina Nawaz, speech coach recommends people “air out their armpits” when they gesture. That is her way of reminding people to make their gestures large and noticeable and to move their arms away from their torso. Dale Carnegie Trainer, Larry Prevot, says speakers who keep their arms too close to their body remind him of old westerns where the hero is tied up. The rope is around his chest and arms bound tightly, but below the elbow, his hands are free allowing him to finally escape, “Be that hero today. Remove the perceived constraints that are pinning your upper arms against your chest and start using everything at your disposal.” Darren Tay, Toastmaster’s World Champion, said in a Business Insider interview “It’s common for novice public speakers to have their gestures centered either too close to their face, which suggests nervousness, or too low, which is distracting. He said the ideal center is around the belly button.” 

In addition to making the arm movements large, the next pro tip is to gesture palms up. Toastmaster Champion Hettiarachchi, suggests you look at the back of your hand and then look at the palm of your hand. Which one relaxes your eye? The palm relaxes your eye which is why great public speakers tend to open their palms towards the audience (video included in bonus features below). In the TED talk, Power in the Palm of Your Hand (video included in bonus features below), Allan Pease tells of a study where speakers had 20 minutes to present a proposal using palm-up gestures, palm down gestures, or pointing gestures.  Here’s what he found: The palm-up speakers were described as laid back, friendly, humorous, and engaging. The speakers with the palm up gesture maintained 40% more retention than the speaker who used the palm-down gesture.  The palms down speakers were described as authoritative, and the pointing speakers were described with negative adjectives.


How To Stop Shaking When You Are Nervous

In this video, How to Stop Shaking when You Are Nervous, Trace Dominguez explains how New York City Police and Members of the Military stop their hands from shaking when they have an adrenaline response. Tactical and box breathing can help you slow down your rapid heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve.  The slower and deeper you breathe, the more relaxed you feel. This technique is done by taking deep breaths through the nose.

Four arrows that say inhale, hold, exhale, hold

How To Do Box Breathing:

  1. Exhale all the breath out of your lungs.
  2. Breathe in for four seconds. As your chest rises and air enters let your mind travel up the side of the box.
  3. Hold for four seconds and in your mind travel across the top of the box.
  4. Breathe out for four seconds and let your mind travel down one side of the box.
  5. Relax for four seconds and let your mind travel across the bottom.
  6. Repeat at least three times.

According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Symington, This visual of the box “provides a helpful anchor for your attention and quickly allows you to get into the flow of rhythmic breathing.”

Watch this short video, How to Stop Shaking When You’re Nervous, as it relates to box breathing.


Your Body Language

When does your speech credibility begin with an audience? At first glance. People start evaluating you the moment they see you. If you are pacing wildly in the hall, if you are sitting submissively while playing on your phone, if you are in the bathroom before your speech having a pep talk and a member of the audience sees you, that is when they start the credibility meter. The moment you arrive at the speech venue, you should walk, talk, and act with confidence.  I once worked for a company that insisted our car was clean inside and out because the client might see it out their office window and begin sizing up our credibility. If you are a college student, consider the fact that every day your classmates see you in class, you are either gaining credibility or losing credibility. If you sit passively in class playing on your cell phone every day, if you wear pajama pants to class, if you slump over dismissively when others give their speeches, you will have diminished credibility with that audience.


Your body tells people how you wanted to be treated. Your body tells people what you want them to think of you. Confident posture tells your audience you believe you are a person of power, and you know what you are talking about.  A confident posture shows your audience you are “comfortable in your own skin.” When people see someone with good posture and body confidence, they perceive them to have more positive attributes and to have increased competence and power.  Your confident posture helps you as well, as Harvard Researcher Amy Cuddy points out, people who hold themselves confidently also feel confident. Individuals with a confident posture had more positive attitudes and were more persistent when engaging in a complex task.

To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question

In some situations, you are expected to stand behind a lectern and in other settings, you are standing there with nothing between you and the audience. You will have to adapt to various contexts in your speaking career. In most settings, it is recommended you put as few barriers between you and the audience as possible.  When thinking about movement remember, you are a tree–plant your feet but move your branches naturally in the wind.  Ok, you can be a tree that moves a little. When you do decide to walk around, make sure it looks purposeful and not nervous–there is a difference between engaged movement and pacing.

The video in this chapter, Body Language –Gestures and Eye Contact in Public Speaking shows a variety of speakers and how each adapts to the speech situation. As you watch it, pay special attention to their feet and arms. One of the things that I like about this video is that it shows that there is no one definitive way to do gestures. Each speaker’s unique personality comes out in their body movements. I tell my students that being a good speaker is about learning to be comfortable in their own skin and learning their unique way of connecting with the audience.

Movement for Advanced Speakers

For you advanced speakers, it is time to be even more intentional with your movement. Some speakers use the baseball method of movement where they “walk their points”. Imagine a baseball diamond on the floor. When you make your first point, you walk to first base. On your second point, you walk to the second base, and on your third point, you move to the third base. Walking to home plate signals that your speech has come full circle (or full diamond) and you are restating the thesis to show how you are connecting with where you began. This physical representation of your speech can help anchor ideas in the minds of the audience.

Cathy Hollingsworth suggests you use purposeful movement to take your audience with you on the journey.
“For many speakers, the hardest thing to resist is walking aimlessly the whole speech.  Then, that movement looks like nervous wandering. Instead, take a few steps during a transition and STOP.  Stay awhile and talk!  When you move to the next point or start to tell a story, take a few more steps and STOP. Stay awhile and talk.”

I learned one of my favorite tricks at a teacher’s retreat. After about an hour of walking around the room teaching, the conference leader looked at us and asked “Do you see where I am standing? Have you noticed every time I make a big point, I stand in the same place?” He went on to tell us throughout the weekend-long conference he had conditioned us to pay attention to his big idea by standing in the same spot every time he drew a conclusion. When he stood in that spot, we knew what he was about to say was important.  This same speaker would stomp with one foot at times as he made a point to get our attention. It was like an exclamation point. He even did a hop using both feet once or twice as a double exclamation point.

The distance you are from the audience and the position of your eyes to the audience can also have an effect. You can create intimacy when telling a personal story by walking closer to the audience or even by sitting down. Moving from behind the podium can signal “I am being vulnerable before you.”  Making your eyes the same level as the audience can signal we are on the same level (though the room and size of the audience can influence this).  The key is whatever you do, make movement intentional and purposeful (imagine me doing a two-footed hop here!).

Enlist the Help of a Friend.  Chances are you have some presentation area where you need work. Ask a friend to give you an honest assessment of what you do. For example, I used to rock up and back when I spoke. I had a friend who would move his pointer finger up and back to let me know when I was doing it. It took a lot of practice and several “rockin” speeches, but eventually, I corrected the behavior.

How To Dress for Your Speech

How do you dress for your speech? The answer should be “it depends.” It depends on the context, the audience, the topic, and the occasion.  Kelly Stoetzel, TED’s Content Director says the most important thing is you “wear something you feel great in.”  She also suggests “Believe it or not, your clothing can earn you an audience connection before you’ve even spoken a word.”  Here are a few guidelines to consider:

  1. Consider the context, topic, and purpose. It may give you credibility to wear a lab coat as you talk about your experience working as a nurse’s assistant. Wearing hiking gear would be appropriate for a speech on how to rappel, and yoga pants are appropriate for a speech about the sun salutation poses. I’m not telling you to dress gimmicky, but to consider what is appropriate for the topic.
  2. Dress nicer than your audience to enhance your credibility. If you are talking to other college students in your class and they are wearing jeans and t-shirts, wear nice pants and a collared shirt. If you are presenting to business professionals in suits, wear a suit.  It can be a mistake to overdress your audience.  If you dress too formally, they will think you are untrustworthy and insincere, however, if you dress too casually the audience might not take you seriously.  Whatever you wear, consider the impact. Typically, there is a balance between looking credible and looking approachable. For example, a study of college teachers found teachers who dressed in professional attire were perceived as more organized and knowledgeable while those dressed casually were perceived as more approachable.
  3. Dress professionally to feel credible. Martin McDermott said, “People elevate their behavior to match their attire.” Dressing professionally can make you feel more confident resulting in enhanced cognition and abstract processing.
  4. Avoid distracting clothing and artifacts. Unless you are comfortable in high heels, you should avoid them in a speech. Be aware that some dress shoes can be very loud and distracting.   If you are tempted to fidget with a ring or necklace, it is best not to wear them when you speak.
  5. Practice in your outfit. It is a good idea to practice your speech in the outfit you will wear to your speech. It will help you identify any issues like sagging straps or an overly tight shirt that restricts gestures.
  6. Consider the sweat factor. Typically, people perspire more when they are giving a speech. Wear something that minimizes any sweat stains.
  7. Consider the backdrop. If you wear black pants and a black shirt, you may get lost in front of a black velvet curtain. If possible, get a picture of or visit the venue where you will be speaking to consider how it will impact your clothing choices.
  8. Consider microphones. If you will be wearing a lapel microphone, you shouldn’t wear a floppy cardigan. If you are wearing a microphone with a battery pack, you will need a belt or defined waistline to clip it onto. If you are wearing an over-the-ear microphone, your dangling earrings may make loud noises that are picked up by the mic. Always ask what the microphone set up will be days before the event so you can dress accordingly.
  9.  Zip it. The best advice about clothing rules I have ever received as a speaker is to always check your fly before you speak.

Social psychologist Erving Goffman asks us to consider we are all like actors on a stage. When we are backstage, we may act one way, and when we are on the front stage, we act another. Actors make intentional choices when performing on the main stage; he called this impression management. As actors, we use props, clothing, artifacts, and nonverbal communication to tell people which “character” we are. If we are successful, the audience will view us the way we want to be viewed. Consider which character you will be and be intentional about how to create that character on your “front stage.”


Thoughts for My Blotchy Friends

Sometimes, I get red blotches that start at my chest and crawl up my neck, and land on my face. I’m not alone. Some of my very best speakers, have the same thing happen. I like to think of it as a sign of great speaking. I don’t want my badge of greatness to distract the audience, so I always consider how my clothing choices can magnify the issue. A crisp white shirt next to my red neck highlights the issue, whereas a black shirt with a nice necklace breaks up the red and doesn’t highlight it so much.  If I pull back my hair in a ponytail, there is more of my red neck exposed, so I wear it long.

Of course, the best solution is not to get red. Easy to say, but not so easy to do, huh?  Doing deep breathing before a speech, being well prepared, and caring about your speech topic all help.  The biggest thing of all is to be aware of your triggers. I get red when I get passionate. If I say, “I love teaching and making a difference in the lives of my students.” I may get red. If I think someone in the audience thinks I’m not competent, I may get red.  If I wear a hot, itchy fabric, I may get red. If someone has on a certain perfume or if I eat certain foods, I will get red. For some of us, red happens. If red happens to you, it certainly doesn’t mean you avoid speaking.

If this is you, you can minimize it, and more importantly, when it happens, the audience can still enjoy your speech. When I see it happen to my students as they passionately pursue their topic, I forget to notice. If you get red, you are in good company. Dress to minimize it, breathe deeply, and focus on the message and your audience will too.



Key Takeaways

  • Public speaking is a skill and with practice, you can improve. Keep an open mindset.
  • Make eye contact with the audience being sure to look in different areas of the room.
  • Gestures should be natural. Gestures help both the speaker and the listeners.
  • Open palms and larger gestures can make you appear more approachable.
  • Use confident body posture, not just during your speech, but any time you are in sight of your audience.
  • Dress according to the context, speech topic, and audience. Typically, dress a little bit above your audience.



Extra Resources


Watch These Videos That Were Referenced in the Text

He starts talking about the palm at 4.35

The Power of YET

Carol Dweck explains how “basic human abilities can be grown and how using “Yet” and “Not Yet” influences learning in different classroom settings. Whether you are teaching kids math or teaching yourself to improve as a public speaker, practicing a growth mindset will be crucial for your success.

Please share your feedback, suggestions, corrections, and ideas.

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Alisonprato (2015). Does body language help a TED talk go viral? Five nonverbal patterns from blockbuster talks. https://blog.ted.com/body-language-survey-points-to-5-nonverbal-features-that-make-ted-talks-take-off/?fbclid=IwAR1w5nVN6TuRip9LhUQ0OviSKiS15RKfPvoe-k-LKgaFxnsCHXkhhNLl7zA

Alibali, M. W.Kita, S., & Young, A. J. (2000). Gesture and the process of speech production: We think, therefore we gestureLanguage and Cognitive Processes15(6), 593613. https://doi.org/10.1080/016909600750040571

Anderson, C. (2013). How to give a killer presentation. Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2013/06/how-to-give-a-killer-presentation

Beebe, S. A. (1974). Eye contact a nonverbal determinant of speaker credibility. Speech Teacher23(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.1080/03634527409378052

Behling, D. U., & Williams, E. A. (1991). Influence of dress on perception of intelligence and expectations of scholastic achievementClothing and Textiles Research Journal9, 17. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887302X9501300102

Briñol, P.Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self‐evaluation: A self‐validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology39, 10531064. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.607

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