7 ways you can improve your body language now

Communication is made up of more than the words we use.

Experts believe that between 70 and 93 per cent of all communication is non-verbal.

Eye contact, smiling, hand gestures and posture can heavily influence how people interpret and react to information.

What does it mean when people look up and to the right or struggle to maintain eye contact?

What does it mean when people walk into the room in different ways?

Can you tell when people are lying?

The next masterclass for members of The Media Team Academy focuses on body language and how you can better use it for media interviews, presentations, business meetings, networking events and online meetings.

The session will be led by Susan Bookbinder, one of our expert tutors. Susan has been a journalist and presenter for the past 40 years.

And she is also an experienced conference facilitator who has chaired company results announcements and mergers and acquisitions.

She recently led a conference involving 200 countries for the International Standards Organisation.

“With some of the events I have facilitated, I am the first face people see, and it is vital I come on stage in a friendly, welcoming and confident way,” she said.

“Otherwise, the audience will start to lose interest, and people begin to check emails and messages on their phones.

“And when that happens, all the money a company spends on these types of events is wasted.

“There are things that I have learnt from doing this for 40 years - and the mistakes I have made – that I will pass on during this session.”

To give you a flavour of what those lessons and advice will include, here are seven body language tips you can use now.


Standing up

Standing in front of a seated audience is probably the presentation format that causes the most fear.

It is a fear delegates often express at the start of our effective presentation techniques course.

But there are simple steps you can take to ensure you appear composed and confident.

“If you are presenting standing up, make a decision,” Susan said.

“Are you going to walk around the stage? If so, move with purpose, not a little dance where you go from one foot to the other.

“If you decide not to move around the stage, make sure you plant your feet shoulder-width apart and put your energy into your use of gesture. This will prevent swaying.”

If you are giving a TV interview, anchor yourself in a similar way. Nervous spokespeople tend to sway or bounce on their toes.

So, either keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Or place one foot a few inches in front of the other.


Sitting down

What about if you are sitting down?

Traditionally sitting down to deliver a presentation has been frowned upon.

But there are many times when we present sat on our bottoms.

Boardroom meetings, team meetings and even some conferences or panel events call for speakers to be seated. And you may choose to sit when presenting online.

The key is to not become too relaxed in this slightly less daunting format – body language remains crucial if you want to show authority and capture the attention of the audience.

Make sure you have your feet flat on the ground. And position yourself as far back in the chair as you can.

Susan said: “When you are sitting down, always remember BBC. It is a good way to remember to sit with your Bum in the Back of the Chair.

“From this position, draw yourself up to your full height, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Then lean forward, placing your forearms on the table in front of you, with arms separated.

“You will appear authoritative and full of integrity – and you haven’t said a word yet.

“I’d always suggest using a stationary chair, as moving around on a swivel one will prove distracting.”


Want access to masterclasses like this?

You need to join The Media Team Academy. The next intake of our popular learning and development programme starts in October. Click here to find out more.

Kick the habits

There are some habits we all pick up that can be distracting when we are giving a presentation, talking to the media or leading a meeting.

Fiddling with jewellery, playing with pens (or coins in your pocket), repeatedly adjusting clothing and stroking hair and beards can all suggest nervousness and take focus away from what you are saying.

Susan said: “Whoever you are talking to, you need to make sure you avoid those habits that can annoy or distract your audience.

“Because they are habits, these can be the hardest things to change. But change starts with awareness.

“There can be a temptation to hide your hands. Avoid this. If people can’t see them, they will wonder what they are up to.”


Eye line

One of the most critical body language tips is maintaining eye contact.

Poor eye contact and wandering eyes can make you look shifty and uncomfortable. And your audience will wonder what else you are looking at.

If you are presenting in a room, look at the audience. If you are doing it online, look into the lens and maintain that contact no matter how awkward it feels.

If you are giving a media interview for television, maintain eye contact with the journalist. If it is an online or down-the-line interview, the eye contact is with the lens.

Susan said: “Always make sure you are looking at the audience or the person you are speaking to if you are trying to make a deal in a business meeting.”  


Divide and conquer

We just mentioned eye contact.

But how do you do that when you are talking to an audience?

The key is to make eye contact with people in different areas of the room.

To ensure people don’t feel left out, divide the room into three sections. Then, when you move that eye contact from one person to another, choose someone in a different section.

Susan said: “When you are speaking in a room, divide it into three, whether you are talking to a small number of people there or it is Wembley Stadium.

“Then make sure you include the whole audience by making different points to different thirds of the audience as you go through your presentation.

“Then everyone will feel included.”



Your voice is a crucial part of getting your body language right.

Whether you are delivering a presentation, giving a media interview, or want to sound more impactful in meetings, warming it up is crucial.

Susan said: “Always warm your voice up, especially before you go on stage so that you can project to the back of the room. And speak from the diaphragm.”

How do you warm your voice up?

There are various techniques you can use, including humming, chanting and lip trills. 

Susan recommends saying a particular word.

She said: “I advise people to say the word ‘om’ several times. It is not possible to say that word from the back of the throat, which is what people tend to do when they are nervous and makes them sound high-pitched.”


Don’t overlook the importance of body language

Whether we are about to face the media, give a vital presentation or have a crucial business meeting coming up, we tend to focus on what we are going to say.

And effective preparation – as we stress during our media training and presentation skills training courses – is crucial.

But don’t overprepare.

Susan said: “Many people stay up until 4am working on their content.

“Then when they come into present their brilliantly crafted work or give an interview, they are exhausted.

“And they are so worried because they have overthought it, that they don’t present it. And people switch off quickly if you don’t look the part.

“Your body language must be congruent with the messaging and the content.”


Want to hear more about body language from Susan?

This session, which takes place next Thursday (15/9), is exclusive to members of The Media Team Academy.

If you are already a member of The Media Team Academy, check your inbox for the invite to the session.

If you’re not yet a member, you can’t get access.

But we can sort that for you – drop us a line at hello@mediafirst.co.uk or give us a call on 0118 9180530 and ask to speak to someone about signing up to The Media Team Academy.

Our next cohort does not officially start until October. But if you sign-up now, we’ll give you early access to all the membership benefits. And the sooner you join, the more extra time you get for free.

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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