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Body Language creates a first impression

Presentation Skills

Written by Paul Castle |

May 18, 2018

Is body language important? Does it make a difference? Can we generalise the body postures of the winners and losers?

Is body language important? Does it make a difference?

Can you remember the last time you saw a professional sports match? Maybe tennis, football or baseball. At the end of most matches there are winners and losers.

Can we generalise the body postures of the winners and losers?

Yes, we can.

The winners stand tall, have a straight posture. They smile, have a glint in their eyes and have lots of energy. For me this is, Mohammad Ali, after his famous 'Rumble in the Jungle'.

Meanwhile, what are our losers doing?

Their posture has slumped shoulders, their head is down their energy is low. They walk slower. Their faces are drawn in defeat.

Which of these two profiles describes you, as you walk to begin your presentation?

Are you enthusiastic about the opportunity before you? Are you scared, trying to act confidently or do you just wishing you did not have to do it?

Preparing your Leadership Body Language

From our comparison above, it’s obvious the type of body language you want to use. There are three critical parts:

• Posture - upright

• Smile - authentic from your eyes and mouth

• Eye contact - looking at your listeners.

There is a fourth part. You must be dressed appropriately. You must look the part. You must act the part.

I can hear you thinking, but how do I do this? How do I behave confidently when I appear in front of my audience?

The latest research says we form a first impression, of someone, within one-tenth of a second. Wow, that's the speed of one blink of the eye. So fast, it's difficult to comprehend isn't it?

Here are two exercises I get many of the presenters, I coach, to use during rehearsals and just before their presentations.

Two exercises to create a first impression

1). Spread your feet to shoulder width. Stretch your arms above your head. Really stretch. Stretch your spine. Relax as you are stretching, breath deeply, comfortably and slowly. Exhale each breath with a sigh. Hold this posture for two minutes. You are ready.

2). Remember a time when you were really confident. Step into your memory. Then stand in that confident posture, breath as you were breathing and put that confident look on your face. Hold this without interruption for two minutes. Once again you are ready.

In later articles, I shall explore the relevance of knowing your presentation purpose, knowing your audience and having the perfect attitude.

Walking to the Podium - Leadership Body Language in Action

Six key tips to creating a great first impression as you walk towards the podium:

1. Check your appearance

2. Walk in a relaxed way

3. Have an upright posture

4. Turn your head and look at your audience, remember all your audience

5. Smile

6. Acknowledge your host, if you were introduced.

Remember how our winners move and look. Adopt from them what is appropriate, in the context of your presentation.

Recently I watched President Bill Clinton walk onto a stage. His pace was calm and unhurried. He looked slowly around at his audience. He smiled, nodded and even gave a few waves of acknowledgement. His host, after making some introductory comments, was about to pass him. Clinton stopped him with a handshake, touched the hosts upper arm with his left hand. Leaned in towards the host while maintaining a big smile and eye contact. He exchanged a few words with his host. The journey to the podium resumed, he again looked at his audience and smiled.

What first impression did this create? Did he already command our willing attention?

The actions of a master communicator.

Sometime later I watched another world politician walk towards his podium. He had good posture, he stood erect. He looked constantly towards the podium. On his way to the podium, he walked passed his host without acknowledgement. What was our first impression of David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister?

What do you think?

Use body language to connect with your audience.


We form first impressions in one tenth of a second or less.

All our knowledge, great slides and preparation may be of little value if we do not connect with our listeners the moment they see us.

Aspire to be a master communicator. Use powerful body language. Demonstrate your leadership by utilising the right body language.

If you like this article please comment or share it.

For your free 30 minute coaching session contact me at I look forward to hearing from you.

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