What to do with your body?

You can have a strong message and good slides but your presentation can still go wrong. Your audience not only listens but also watches when you are giving a presentation, which is why your body language is also important. As a speaker, don’t only focus on what you are saying but also how you are standing in front of an audience. Your body language can make your presentation better but also worse. But remember: only practice makes perfect when it comes to body language.
Problems with body language often come from stress. Ask friends or lecturers to give you feedback on your body language during presentations and try to improve yourself. Slowly but surely you will notice that bad habits will disappear and that good body language will become natural to you.
Try not to focus on everything at once during presentations but choose what you will focus on before starting your presentation. Give your presentation, try your best and evaluate afterwards. Did I manage to succeed in this one aspect I was focussing on? Are there other aspects that I need to focus on next time? Also dare to ask these things to other people. They sometimes see more than what you feel during your presentation.

There is nothing more distracting to watch than a speaker who moves around too much. Try not to wiggle or step around in a rush. Stand still or walk steadily towards a different spot.

Make sure you are aware of your posture. Don’t lean against a desk or a wall if you don’t want to come across as nonchalant. The safest way is usually the easiest as well. Stand up straight and spread your feet a little bit. 

Your legs and feet should be calm but that doesn’t mean that you can’t move the rest of your body. In order to use your hands well during a presentation, you must find a good balance. 

Too many gestures

Many speakers use their hands when they are presenting because it feels natural to them. This is not necessarily a bad thing as hand gestures can make your presentations much more powerful and convincing. However, too much is too much. Your hand gestures shouldn’t look like a carousel or a mixer. During your presentation, you are not a samba dancer with broadway hands. Too much movement is always distracting for your audience. 

Meaningful gestures 

You have much space around your body. Use that space to illustrate the topic and structure of your presentation. When talking about three characteristics of a substance, use your hands to place one characteristic on your left, one in front of you and one on your right. When talking about a concept, also place that concept in front of you, without making thirteen other gestures beforehand or afterwards. Something that happened in the past, can be placed on your left. Something that will happen in the future can be placed on your right. If you talk about something big, make it big with your hands. If you talk about something small, make it small.

Would you like to really learn how to speak with your hands in a meaningful way? Go through your presentation and decide which meaningful gestures you would like to use when you are presenting. Try not to exaggerate. Not every word should come with a hand gesture but feel free to include many hand gestures throughout your presentation as you will leave out many of the hand gestures you prepared during your actual presentation. 

Not enough gestures

Some speakers struggle to use their hands. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing either but it is a missed opportunity at least. Using your hands can make your presentation vivid and convincing. 

When you practice your presentation, try to choose one word in every sentence that you want to focus on with a small gesture. This may feel very strange and forced but the more you do this, the more you will get used to it. It is an exercise that will definitely pay off in the long term. 

The audience is king. And you must make eye contact with a king. 

You should make eye contact with your audience, not just because that is nicer for your audience but also because eye contact is the only way to get feedback during your presentation. If you look your audience in the eye, you can see whether they frown or whether they nodd, which is very valuable feedback for a speaker. This way, you can add nuance if necessary. 

Make eye contact

Don’t look slightly above the audience or stare. Try to teach yourself how to look people in the eye. This might be difficult at first but you will get used to this very quickly. Fight the urge to look at the ceiling or the floor when you are thinking about what you want to say next. You usually won’t find the answer there. Don’t lose yourself in your slides either. You know what’s on your slides so there is no need to keep looking at them.

There are of course also technical tools that you will come in contact with as a speaker such as a pointer or a microphone. What do you do with them and what are the possible pitfalls? 


If the room you are presenting in is small, a microphone will be much more a burden than a gift. There is no point in using a microphone if there is no need to.

If you have a pointer, there is no need to stand behind a desk anymore. You shouldn’t go back and forth between your slides constantly either during your presentation, even though it is very easy to do so with your pointer. 

Also make sure not to point anything out on your slides using the laser of your pointer. Just indicate something on your slide or show it with your hands as this will leave a much more professional impression. 


If the room you are presenting in is small, a microphone will be much more a burden than a gift. There is no point in using a microphone if there is no need to.

Microphones are very often unadjusted to the speaker. Make sure to try out the microphone first and if something is wrong with it (think of the volume that can be too loud or crackling noises), make sure to fix it first before starting your presentation. This way, your presentation is completely separate from any inevitable technical failures at the start. 


Sometimes many technical things go wrong at first. You can’t find your slides, the beamer is not working properly or the batteries of your pointer are dead. Fix those problems first and then start your presentation. Only when everything is solved, or you have decided to do things differently, you can start your presentation with confidence.

Don’t rush yourself to start when you are in the middle of technical chaos because this doesn’t really come across very convincingly to your audience. As a speaker, you have full control. 

At the same time, try to be prepared for such problems. For example, save your presentation as a powerpoint but also as a pdf-file. Bring extra batteries for your pointer and test your videos using the wifi of your institution beforehand.  

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