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[New Public Speaking Book]

How to Master Body Language - Chapter 5

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This page will teach you exactly how to develop compelling body language.


It will teach you the main ideas from Chapter 5 of How to Master Public Speaking.


You will learn how to make the most of your body language...


...and project immense confidence. Are you ready?


Let's get started.

Contents of This Chapter


I've got a story for you:


It's election season. JFK and Nixon are battling it out for the White House.


If you love politics, like I do, this should be an exciting story. But, if you love (or want to master) public speaking, it should be even more exciting. You'll find out why.


The JFK and Nixon debates were both televised and broadcasted on national radio.


Here's where it gets interesting:


People who listened on the radio were firm in their belief that Nixon won the debates.


People who watched on television were equally firm in their belief that JFK won the debates.


Why? It's fascinating:


The radio captures only voice. In a battle of the voices, Nixon beat JFK. He had more convincing answers, and more compelling content.


The television captures voice and image. In a battle of voice and image, body language comes into play.


JFK had suave, confident body language. Nixon was sweating, and had "shifty eyes."


Google it. People actually refer to it as "Nixon's shifty eyes."


Here's the first lesson:


What you say is often as important as how you look saying it.


Here's the second lesson:


In extreme cases (like this story), what you say can be less important than how you look saying it.


This is why it is CRITICAL to master body language. You need to compel your audience with all tools: words, voice, and body. Use the whole public speaking toolbox.


Many people have no idea just how many body language techniques exist.


How many?


A lot. More than I can write here (the book goes over significantly more).


For now, I'll leave you with these techniques:


  • Find your "comfort gesture" and stop it.

  • Copy the posture of a confident speaker.

  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.

  • Keep your hands facing the audience.

  • Do not block off your body with your arms.

  • Keep your arms by your sides.

  • Pay special attention to your feet (plant them to the ground).

  • Don't "sway."

  • Stand up straight.


Eye Contact

You can make eye contact with an entire room of people.


There are two ways to do this. One works for smaller rooms, one works for larger rooms.


I'll give you the one for smaller rooms now:


I call it S-pattern eye-contact.


Why? Because that's exactly what you do: Make eye-contact with your audience in an S pattern.


It's easy:


Start on one side of the front row, then slowly make eye contact with the next person, and the next person, all the way until the last person in the front row. Do this as you are speaking, and do this slowly. Hold each person's gaze for 5 seconds.


When you finish the first row, jump to the second. Start at whichever end of the row you didn't start the front row. (This avoids your head rapidly snapping back to the same side of the room).


Repeat until you covered the whole room.


This technique is excellent for smaller rooms, or audiences packed closely together.


The book teaches a second technique which is excellent for larger rooms or audiences that are spread irregularly.



I'm going to say something strange. But, hopefully it will help you understand gestures.


You have two voices. I don't mean two different vocal voices.


I mean this:


You have a vocal voice, and a non-vocal voice.


The non-vocal voice is your gestures, and what you do with your hands.


Think about it:


Sign-language is literally a language that uses hands as the voice.


Regular communication relies on gestures too.


Do you want to be a dynamic speaker? Do you want to captivate the room? Do you want to hold everyone's attention?


I know I want those things when I speak.


And here's how I achieve them, and how you can too:


Engage people in two languages.


Language 1: your verbal language.


Language 2: your body language, specifically gestures and hand motions.


The best public speaking advice is usually simple...


...and nothing can be more simple than this:


If you want to master public speaking, your two languages (verbal and physical) must be:


  1. Both activated.

  2. Both giving the same message.


Effective use of gestures demands that your gestures give the same message as your voice.


It's no use activating both of them if they contradict each other, such as:


  • A speaker with a passionate tone but calm gestures.

  • A speaker with a calm tone but intense gestures.

  • A speaker with a polished tone but choppy gestures.

  • A speaker with a happy tone but angry gestures.


Instead, here's how the two languages can work together:


  • A speaker with a passionate tone and passionate gestures (hands moving emphatically and with energy at points of inflection).

  • A speaker with a calm tone and relaxed gestures (hands moving slowly and smoothly, following the variations in the speaker's voice).

  • A speaker with a polished tone and sharp gestures (hands moving quickly with slight position shifts to place accent on the speaker's content).

  • A speaker with a happy tone and joyful gestures (hands held high or cupped over the speaker's heart).


Brilliance is usually difficult...


...unless you manage to sync two different voices; to make them work together to support one message.


Then brilliance is easy. Extremely easy.


Here are some of the gesture techniques taught in the book:


  • Make benevolent hand motions, like you are making a physical offering to your audience.

  • Don't point.

  • Instead of pointing, use the "fist of power" (it's not what you think).

  • Don't wave your arms around like a crazy person.

  • Make "open gestures" that enlarge the physical space you occupy.

  • Avoid a closed body language at all costs.

  • Keep your torso open; do not block it with gestures.

  • Keep your gestures in the box between your chest and waist.

  • Never let the angle between your arm and forarm exceed 120 degrees.



Here's more straight from the book:


Why is television a significantly more popular form of media than radio? Because it moves. A slow, dramatic, controlled pace across the stage, or across wherever you’re speaking, can go a long way by grabbing people’s attention and building suspense for what you will say next. Do not speak while pacing, and don’t pace too often. Pace once or twice during a ten-minute block of speaking time. The only time you should speak while pacing is if you are transitioning from one point to another. When pacing, keep your torso turned so that you are still facing the audience.


The goal of pacing, aside from building suspense, is to engage everyone in the audience. If you are on one side of the room, speaking from that position will engage everyone on that side of the room because you are closer to them. It is good to pace once or twice because doing so engages more of your audience. If you’re speaking from a designated podium, then pacing is obviously not a viable strategy. More often than not, you should be able to decide whether or not you want a podium. If you intend to use the power of movement to engage the audience, skip the podium.


It’s important to remember only to pace between three points on the stage or platform: the two ends, and the middle. You should only ever move like this:


The numbers are the positions on your stage or platform. If you are in position one, you can move to position two or directly to position three. If you are in position two, do not go back to the position from which you just came. For example, if you start in one, and go to two, don’t go back to one. Doing so will make the people in the audience closest to position three feel like you forgot about them.


A technique associated with three-position stage movement is that if you structure your message around three main ideas, you should deliver the first one from position one, the second from position two, and the third from position three. If you have more than three main ideas, let’s say you have nine, deliver them from these positions: 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1. Note that in this case, you deliver four points from position two, three from one, and two from three. It’s okay that you deliver more from position two than anywhere else: it’s the middle of the stage.


This “one, two, three” technique is useful because it prevents you from looking like you are aimlessly pacing on stage. It adds a clear structure to your movement.

Use your judgement when pacing: positions one and two don’t necessarily have to be the corners of the stage, but the corners of your audience. If you have a stage that’s ten yards wide, and an audience that’s five yards wide, don’t go to the opposite side of the ten-yard-wide stage. Stay close to your audience when pacing.


There’s an undeniable suspense-building dynamism to a speaker who moves across the stage with a slow, silent walk. It is a dynamism which can captivate an audience, and make the speaker appear confident and in control."


Facial Expressions

Aaaaand more from the book:


"It sounds simplistic, but a quick smile to the audience before beginning your speech can go a very long way. It will make you more approachable, it will make the audience more receptive to your message, and it will even defuse any anxiety you may be feeling.

To share a smile with an audience before you share your speech shows that you are not a robot performing an artificial routine to bolster your personal agenda. A smile shows the audience that you are connecting person to person. It shows warmth, and connects them to the source of your message: you. A smile has a very special psychological affect, and it is contagious. A smiling person makes others smile too 6. The humanity behind a smile is what makes fumbles in speech and outward anxiety acceptable; your audience can empathize with it and actually relate to you as a person if you smile at them.


Facial expressions in speeches go beyond a smile, although a smile at the start of a speech is universally effective. If you are speaking about a moment of sadness in your life, let your expression show the pain. If you are speaking about an injustice, let your expression show the anger. If you are speaking about a moment of contentment, let your expression show the happiness. You don’t need to be acting or fabricating the emotions. Instead, just let the emotions that are already there be shown on your face. If there are no emotions, then don’t fabricate any. Make it genuine by making your facial expression a true representation of how you are feeling.


Public speaking is not accomplished by speaking alone. It goes beyond that, into the realm of using everything at your disposal to convey a message. That includes your facial expressions."

Use of Body Conclusion

Copy and pasted straight from the book:


"At this point, you’ve learned about mastering your words, mastering your voice, and in this past section mastering your body. Your public speaking toolbox is now complete.

You know how to use your words, your voice, and your body to convey a message and construct a public speaking triad. It’s a skill coveted by many, so make the most of it.


I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s a wide variety of skills in your toolbox. There are many ways to use your voice to its best impact; some are very simple, and some are exceedingly complex. Nonetheless, it’s all yours. The toolbox is unlocked for you.


There are, of course, different aspects of delivery to be mastered in the next and final section of this book. But for now? It’s all in your hands. Use your communicator’s toolbox often, because every time you do, new opportunities, connections, and accomplishments will be spawned.


Just remember one last thing: with great power comes great responsibility. Never use these skills to manipulate others or to be untrue to yourself. Use them to do good for others, and good will come right back to you."

Other Chapters

Eye Contact
Facial Expressions
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