The first step to becoming a good speaker is not the words you use, but the way you use your body. How you sit or stand, where you look (or don’t look), the way you move your hands are all extremely important when speaking to people. Whether it’s one person or a roomful of people, all of these parts are important. Let’s look at each one, and then apply them to the Speaking Assignment below!
How to stand: Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your back should be straight, and not hunched over. Imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head, and someone is pulling it straight up to the ceiling!
Where to look: One big problem with many speakers is maintaining eye contact. Keeping your eyes on one person may feel strange at first, but it shows you are listening and interested in what they are saying. With more than one person, focus your attention on who is speaking; when you are speaking, make sure you look at each person for a few seconds before moving your eyes to the next person. For larger audiences, a good approach is to imagine the room is divided into three sections. For each section, focus your eyes on that area for 3 seconds, then move to the next section; when you come to the final section, return to the first section! Continue this throughout your entire speech or presentation!
How to move your hands: When you’re not using your hands, they should rest in front of your body. Many speaking experts will tell you to keep your hands at your sides, but this looks unnatural and robotic for many people. Instead, try holding your hands together (not tight!) and place them around your bellybutton area. When you want to stress a point, focus on a graph in your PowerPoint, etc., use your hands to slowly and gently gesture to that area. It’s best to use a gesture with an open hand, flat palm, and fingers together. These types of gestures are called “Gestures for focus.” There are other gestures we will learn in Unit 4.
Practice these three points as you do the following Speaking Assignment. Don’t worry about your voice right now—just practice your posture, eye contact, and hand placement and gestures.
Present your “ME” chart to the class! While you present your chart, remember to check you’re your posture, hands, and eyes. After a student has presented his or her chart, other students should give feedback—what did they do well, and what could be improved?