This is Too Dramatic! Maintaining the Balance with Body Language Elements
When we cover body language techniques in our public speaking programmes, one of the immediate queries often centres around the concern about being too ‘dramatic’. This tends to happen especially when the learners are shown specific examples in a keynote or motivational speech context. Body language techniques are meant to increase the speaker’s energy on stage and improve the relatability with the audience. The balance between that objective and a dramatic outcome is indeed quite thin!
If you have ever wondered if a body language technique is not a ‘natural’ fit for you, then today’s topic may be interesting. To start, body language elements (or non-verbal communication) looks at using our body to improve our delivery. This can take the form of hand gestures, posture, eye contact, stage positioning, and even vocal variety! When used as a combination, the immediate effect is often an increase in a speaker’s energy on stage.
We will explore how to utilise body language techniques on your next speaking opportunity to achieve your desired objective!
The 10% Rule – Slight Adjustments
It is difficult to set a rigid rule on how to adjust your body language on stage. For a start, we differentiate between your base and your heightened body language habits. The base habits are your neutral starting point (e.g., when you are having a conversation or in a low-stakes communication setting). Your heightened habits increase energy or slight exaggeration for energy on stage.
The transition from your base to heightened habits will depend on the setting, but as a start, we often encourage transitions in the range of 10%. While this is primarily qualitative, the general starting point can allow you to estimate the change in your body language as required. For example, if you usually move your hand gestures in a limited range in casual settings (e.g., within the stomach area), the 10% increase would translate into a slight shift edgewise or nearer to the audience. As you experiment with the different heightened habits, you will settle on a comfortable speaking style for yourself!
Matching & Lifting
The purpose of body language techniques (among other benefits) is to increase your audience’s energy level and even convey a confident speaking style. It may be easy to think that the premium is on a high-energy speaking style, no matter the setting, but the aim is in modulation instead of escalation. Understanding this difference will help you naturally manage your body language techniques on stage.
The former focus on modulation focuses on the process of shifting from your base to heighten body language. Instead of staying with extremes (e.g., loud volume), practice the change from your natural volume to a higher volume. Unlike escalation (where the change is sharp and jarring), modulation ensures that the transition/change is steady and not jarring. One method to achieve this is by matching your base habits to the audience’s energy and slowly lifting that energy with heightened body language habits.
Context is Key!
As with any technique or scaffold, your success depends on the communication context. The aim is not to specialise in one setting/context but to build an arsenal of body language tools you can pick from and apply depending on the speaking setting. You build the versatility to manage your common communication settings and influence your audience’s reaction to your presentation or speech.
As a general guide, bigger/open body language habits tend to align more with an energetic, persuasive setting. For example, open hand gestures, wider changes in modulation, and stage positioning portray a powerful speaker. In contrast, a rooted posture, steady vocal pace, and high-impact/careful gestures may indicate a credible/professional speaker. Experienced speakers can flit or transition between different styles along one presentation!
Maximise Your Stage Energy
Ultimately, body language techniques are an indispensable aspect of your presentation success. Without it, you are unlikely to move or excite your audience (even if your content alone is strong). To avoid the ‘danger’ of being too dramatic, you should apply precise body language techniques based on our sharing above. Remember to take your next speaking stage chance to boost your audience’s energy with body language!
WATCH for ‘Standing Still (Body language – localized)’: “Champion, 2018 National Public Speaking Competition | Chua Guang Rong, Nan Hua High”
WATCH for ‘Moving on Stage (Body language – Varied)’: “2nd Place Winner, 2017 National Public Speaking Competition, Dylan Edward Long, Nan Hua High School”
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