Saturday, April 21, 2018

5 Ways To Use Your Body Language In Public Speaking

World renowned couple counsellor and family therapist Virginia Satir identified five key “Postures” that her clients adopted.  Stereotypes, which powerfully communicate non-verbal messages.

You can use these postures to increase your “presence” both on stage and off.  Powerfully use your physiology (the 55% of any communication) to send non-verbal messages that back up your verbal one, thereby doing what I call “Communicating at 100%”.  You can also use these to control the energy in the room, raising it, lowering it or maintaining it depending on your outcome.  They increase your authority and assertiveness, and women in business can use them possibly more effectively than men can.

On stage they help you deal with hecklers, or to invoke states in your audience.  They also answer the question of “How do you stand, what do you do with your hands?”  Most speakers do the Fig leaf, the Prince Charles, with their hands clasped in front or behind, or worse, hands in pockets.  These are much more powerful.

There’s nothing worse than a distracting speaker who paces around, or fiddles, or whose attention is clearly in his or her own head and not on you in the audience.  You end up watching them for their weird behaviours and not for what they’re teaching.  Ooops!

Non Verbal Communication

The five Satir categories are the answer to “what do I do with my hands?” or “How do I stand?”.  Each category is an instantly recognised stereotype, and you’re doing one or more of them unconsciously anyway!  They affect your state, and that of the audience.  Remember that physiology is 55% of the message.  You often see these on book covers as the author has been coached in how to pose for the camera.  Here’s how to do them, and what they do.


Weight on one leg or evenly distributed
Arms folded, one hand on your chin
The thinking pose
Looks authoritative, like you are the wise one. Helps you
Deal with a threat so it’s harmless.
Says “I’m pensive, thinking it through, I’m the expert, I’m the authority”
Thoughtful, cool, calm and collected.  You can hide your
Self-worth behind big words and intellectual ideas
Completely rational.
Good to use when people ask you questions.
Common in Cerebral people
Be reasonable beyond limit, and use polysyllabic words
Statement tonality – fairly monotone


Weight evenly distributed, feet shoulder width apart
Hands sweep down and out as if you were sweeping snow off a wall
Says “Here’s the deal, this is how it’s going to be”
Asserts authority and calms things down, especially if you leave a pause after it
Commanding tonality, straight talker
Brings energy down
Common in Kinesthetic people
Congruent, the body matches the words, telling the truth
Good for apologising whilst maintaining your dignity


Weight evenly distributed, feet shoulder width apart
Palms up hands moving up, open and vulnerable
Says “Help me out here, please?” and “I’m sorry” and “Tell me what to do”
Suggests openness and trying to please, so that the other person doesn’t get angry with you.
Useful to open a questions and answers session.
Makes the energy more emotional, safe, gentle
Questioning tonality, higher pitched voice
Common in Kinesthetic people
Agree with the other person – be a “yes” man or
Remember the helpless “Smeagol” character in
The Lord Of The Rings movies


Weight on one leg
One foot in front of the other, pointing the finger
Says “It’s your fault, on your head be it” or “I’m in charge, right?!”  Usually disagrees with people and accuses.
This is the accuser, acting superior, looking strong
Useful for ramming a message home, emphasising, or telling someone they’ve done really well
Brings energy up
Loud command tonality
Common in visual people


Weight on one leg, or lock your knees together
Everything moving, angular, diagonal, arms and
legs going out in all directions.
Says “Don’t ask me, I’m an airhead, I’m dizzy”
Think dumb bunny, bimbo.
Useful for defusing tension, distracting hecklers, or adding comedy.  Comedians often use Distracter with their punch line.
Ignores any threat in the hope that it’ll vanish
Releases stuck energy
Voice going up and down
Common in Auditory people
Words make no sense

I want it to be that when you do move it has intention, and it has impact!  Try talking about your hobby or your career for a few minutes, or something you know a lot about.  Adopt each category for 30 seconds at a time, so 30 seconds in Computer, then 30 seconds in Leveller, then 30 seconds using them all together

You might start doing this in normal life.  These still work while you’re sitting down, as you use the top half of your body.  But think about it.  What if you became more assertive?

Women in business – try and avoid Placater and Distracter.  They make you look vulnerable and weak.  Instead use Leveller and Computer.  You’ll come over far more assertive, and you’ll probably freak the men out with your authority!

Remember that you cannot not communicate, so make sure what you’re screaming non verbally agrees with what you’re saying with your mouth.  And train up the ones that feel awkward and unfamiliar, to increase your behavioural flexibility.

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