Penguins are great swimmers. But when it comes to moving on land, they are neither the fastest nor the most elegant animals. Their short legs are simply not made for running or walking. Though most scientists agree that waddling is the best way for a such short-legged animal to conserve mechanical energy.
Penguins can be cute, but they will also never be good presenters. Their silly walks and low gestures would distract the audience and draw people’s eyes away from their face. If you watch for it, you may catch human presenters doing a clumsy imitation of penguins. Waddling nervously over the podium, their hands fluttering at their waist.
A study carried out by Dr. Albert Mehrabian revealed that only a mere 7% of any message is conveyed through actual words, 38% through vocal elements like volume and pitch, and 55% through facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc. I don’t want to get involved in a numbers game (there has been a lot of discussion on the web about the meaning of these percentages), but this study is certainly underlining the importance of nonverbal elements when communicating with any audience.
- Adopt a neutral and open stance. Have a locked start position. Be aware where you stand. Do not obscure the screen. Walk with purpose. Use a clicker. Never turn your back the people in the room (yes, this may mean that you won’t be able to read the slides projected behind you). Use your hands to point to what’s interesting on the screen (instead of a nervously jumping laser pointer beam.)
- Stand tall, keep your head up. Keep the “gesture zone” beside and in front of your upper body half (remember the penguins!) The bigger the audience, the bigger the gestures you should make. Take benefit from the adrenaline in your body. But be conscious of what you do with your hands (and with your remote control.)
- Body language and facial expression should match your message. Stay natural. Smile, nod, make open gestures. Make eye contact with your listeners. Don’t gesture constantly, but let your emotions drive your gestures. Vary your gestures to keep your audience’s attention.
- Why Penguins Waddle (by Kate Wong)
- Ten Tips on Using Body Language When Delivering a Speech (by John Zimmer)
- The Body Language Infographic (by Nick Morgan)
- Faceboards: The Range of Human Emotion Caught on Camera (by Dennis Green)