Speaking on Video? Body Language Counts

Communication experts have long argued that as much as 95 percent of communication is nonverbal. In other words, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it; your tone, inflections and body language can send a completely different message than your words do.

As a professional public speaker, you are probably very aware that your body language when you take the stage is just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. You may have even spent a great deal of time learning how to effectively project the right message via your body language — after all, when you’re gripping the podium in fear, no one’s going to believe your message of self-confidence.

Learning to manage your body language on stage is only part of the journey toward becoming an effective speaker, though. It’s also important to learn how to control your body language when you are speaking on video, and understand that while some of the principles are the same, you do need to make adjustments if you’re going to be a “talking head” on tape.

Why You Need to Look Great on Tape

Speaking effectively on video is important for several reasons. First, most meeting and convention planners are going to want to see how you speak before they hire you for their events. Even if he or she has seen you in action at another event in prestigious locations like Washington, D.C., and knows that you’re the right person for the job, there may be other people that need convincing. Your video is the centerpiece of your marketing package, and hiring a full service professional video production company to produce a video for you using footage from previous speechesis a great first step, but you will probably need to add some additional footage selling yourself to planners.

Secondly, not all speaking opportunities are live. You may be asked to appear via satellite or Skype, and won’t be able to give your speech using your normal gestures or movements. If you are prepared to speak on video, though, your words will be just as powerful on the screen because the audience is not distracted by poor body language.

body language basics

Body Language Basics

The first step to developing effective body language when speaking on video is to do something that very few people enjoy: Watch yourself on tape. Film yourself giving a talk in the same environment that you would if you were hired professionally — the same room, background, clothing and makeup hairstyle. As you watch the video, look for “tics” or gestures that you find distracting; for example, talking with your hands, making certain facial expressions or constantly shifting position. Make notes, so you know what you need to work on.

More specifically, some of the basics to pay attention to include:

– Remain in the frame. Do you make large gestures that take your hands out of the frame? Do you move around so much that your head leaves the frame, or moves too far in one direction? Sitting completely still looks and feels unnatural, so focus on controlling your movements so you remain in the frame at all times.

– Lean toward the camera. Positioning your body even slightly away from the audience communicates a negative energy. To project warmth and make a connection with your viewers, lean slightly toward the camera.

– Be mindful of your hands. Gesturing can be powerful. It helps you make a point. It can also be distracting. When filming your video, try sitting at a table or desk or in a chair with arms so you have a place to rest your arms without looking stiff and uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to use small gestures to emphasize a point or enhance your words. However, don’t fidget or use overly dramatic or stilted gestures that feel rehearsed — and never point at the camera. It’s rude in person, and on film.

– Sit up straight. No slouching — pay attention to your posture, which will also improve your breathing and ability to speak clearly.

– Pay attention to your facial expressions. Don’t be afraid to smile when appropriate, but don’t overdo the smiling either. Studies show that even infants can detect a fake smile, so if you’re smiling maniacally on your video, your audience will be wondering if you’re mentally stable rather than focusing on your words. Speak naturally, smiling when appropriate and being serious when appropriate.

Because your success as a professional speaker is so reliant on your ability to speak effectively on video, it’s important that you develop the skills you need to wow meeting planners and inspire your audiences. Spend some time perfecting your body language on video, and your videos will be as well-received as your in-person speeches.

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