Feb 06

Public Speaking: Physical Distractions

When you speak, or give a presentation, do you videotape (easier to write than digitally record) yourself. Not for YouTube humiliation, or ego stroking, but for analysis of your performance.

What some people don’t realise is that they have physical distractions that manifest themselves when they are in front of a crowd. In some cases they have these even when they’re not public speaking.

In the past, I have seen two different female presenters delivering their presentations with their hand on their hip. I’m not being sexist when I say this, it’s just that it in my experience this is quite a natural pose for a lot of women. That’s absolutely fine, away from the speaking platform.

Another physical distraction that I’ve seen was when I saw someone delivering a table topic. They were stood up on the platform, with their legs crossed. Not only that, but there was a lot of twisting from left to right. She looked like she was giving Houdini a run for his money.

By delivering your presentation with your hand on one hip and your weight more on one leg than another you don’t come across as confident and authoritative. The same if you’re stood there impersonating a pretzel. Being balanced when you speak is important because an audience wants to feel secure when they are watching a speaker. It’s not enough that you are an authority on your subject you have to look like one too.

You should stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with your weight equally balanced on each foot. You can move, obviously, but when you do make sure that it’s with purpose.

A physical distraction of my own, that I seem to have developed recently is that I tilt my head back slightly when I speak. This has the effect of making me seem as though I’m looking down at my audience, which could create a dis-connect because I don’t want to seem as though I am superior to them.

The problem seems to be the result of me being a glasses wearer again. For about ten years I’ve predominantly been a contact lens wearers. But about two years ago I got myself a decent set of new glasses and wanted to get as much wear out of them as possible as I finally enjoyed wearing glasses again. Due to the design if I look straight ahead I can half see over the top of them. So I only see half an image.

As a result I have subconsciously tilted my head back so I could see. I was only recently made aware of this at a Toastmasters meeting. What will be interesting is to wear my contacts again when I give my next speech and see if I can begin correcting the problem.

Do you do anything that could be physically distracting for your audience?  Get an honest friend, or videotape yourself and have a look at the results.