Why is body language important in public speaking?

You’ve just created a great presentation with a very interesting topic – even made a perfect slide deck. Now you’ve got to start preparing your delivery. Does it make more sense to invest your time and energy into enriching your speech with wonderful grammar or should you pay attention to your non-verbal skills, like body language?

Body language is key for a successful delivery

Anyone who is familiar with Mehrabian’s research knows the answer. Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule states that: 

  • 7% of our communication consists of words 
  • 38% is determined by voice 
  • and 55% is body language 

The answer is body language! Body language largely determines the perception of your message. To deliver your presentation successfully, it is important to understand what these non-verbal skills in public speaking are.

  • Body language

The speaker’s appearance should reinforce the speech. Body language supports your story through empathic gestures, expressions and body positioning. Eye contact, for example, establishes immediately a bond with the audience, especially when a speaker focuses on individual listeners rather than just gazing over the audience as a whole. 

  • Voice

The speaker’s voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another for emphasis, and should have a variety of rate and volume. Furthermore, a good voice can be clearly heard and the words easily understood. Be loud enough that people in the last row can easily hear you. This may feel embarrassingly loud, but sound dissipates quickly in a big or carpeted room.


Using body language makes more impact

It should be no surprise by now, that mastering your non-verbal communication makes a great difference when delivering your message.  

  1. You have more charisma
    Excellent use of delivery helps you to come across more charismatic by demonstrating positive body language . This subsequently increases your influence on others.


  2. You have more authority
    Increasing volume in your speech helps you radiate more authority .


  3. You become more relaxed
    Body language and voice can also affect yourself. With the right posture and correct breathing, you become more relaxed .

Tips to improve your non-verbal speech skills

Now that you know what body language is and why it matters while giving a presentation, or speech, we’ll share a few practical tips to get you started:

  1. Ensure you breathe through your belly.
    Check this before you start to speak. You can do this by putting your hands on your belly and examine whether you breathe correctly.


  2. Establish a strong connection with your feet and the floor.
    Imagine a moment that you are a 100-year old oak tree grounded to the floor. This increases your self-confidence. Start your speech after this exercise.


  3. Deliver your speech with an open stand.
    This assures you are perceived as more reliable. This means nothing is in between your audience and you. More specifically, prevent your hands from touching each other (unless you make a gesture). And smile.

Want to practice your non-verbal speech skills?

You’re very welcome to attend a Toastmasters club meeting. You might be impressed. Many members apply excellent use of non-verbal communication. How is this possible?! 

Members of a Toastmasters club mainly learn by doing. By often standing in front of the audience, they discover the tricks of the trade. But also by mimicking other club members, they quickly learn how to use body language effectively. 

Club members can tell you even more about how Toastmasters have helped them to develop practical verbal and non-verbal skills. Are you curious about those experiences? Do not hesitate to ask them when you visit a Toastmasters club.

Toastmasters in the Netherlands

With more than 40 clubs in the Netherlands, there is likely one in the neighborhood.