Chat with Expert Olivia Mitchell about using natural Body Language when Presenting

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Olivia Mitchell Speaking about Presenting

Olivia Mitchell is one of the leading industry experts who will be speaking at 2011 Presentation Summit to be held on Sep 18-21 at Texas, USA. Her blog speaking about presenting is extremely popular for simple and easy to apply presentation tips.

With partner Tony Burns, she does business as Effective Speaking. She and Tony have jointly developed a successful practice of over 10 years and Olivia has been involved in public speaking as a (deep breath): lawyer, city council manager, management trainer at a bank, political candidate, small business owner, and as a presentation skills trainer.

Olivia chats with Arte from Presentation Process about why presenters should use more natural style when speaking.

Olivia Mitchell Body Language Quote

Arte: You mentioned this in your site – “Every piece of advice about presenting and public speaking can be taken too far. There can be too much of anything.” Can you tell us more about this?

Olivia: There are some great pieces of advice about presenting, for example, pause more often, move to demonstrate your enthusiasm, be passionate. However, each of these can be taken too far. If a presenter pauses too often, their speech will become labored and difficult to listen to. If they move too much or in a repetitive pattern, some audience members will get distracted and irritated. You can even be too passionate. The viral youtube video of Phil Davison is a great example of this. 

Arte: When people communicate 1 to 1 they are natural. Why do they become unnatural when it is one-to-many communication?

Olivia: One on one communication is everyday communication. Most people aren’t nervous about talking to one other person. But people do get nervous as soon as more than 2 or 3 people are listening, and that’s why they become unnatural.

Suddenly they’re aware of the possibility of being judged by the audience, they feel vulnerable and concerned that the audience won’t approve of them. They think that just being themselves is no longer good enough. This thought reflects in their body language.

Arte: Can you share any examples of what happens when the presenter appears too polished?

Olivia: People like a presenter they can relate to. And they like a presenter who speaks from their own knowledge – rather than a script. A presenter who is too polished – that is never makes a stumble and never pauses to think, is both too perfect to relate to and raises suspicions as to whether they really own what they are saying.

Arte: How can presenters practice being more natural? Will it make them appear less professional?

Olivia: To be more natural, use the same skills that you do in one on one conversation. You can do this by talking to just one person at a time, even when you are talking to a group. Talk to one person for a phrase, or for a short sentence before moving on to someone else. Look for the reaction of the person you’re talking to just as you would in one on one conversation.

Unless you’re unprofessional in a one on one conversation, this will not make appear less professional.

Arte: How does being natural reflect in presenter’s gestures? What are more natural gestures?

Olivia: Natural body language is unplanned body language. Simply ensure that your body is free to move, and then let it do it’s thing as you talk. If you hold your hands together or hold onto a lectern you’ll be stifling your natural expressions.

Arte: Doesn’t being natural also require a lot of practice? If yes, what are the top 1 or 2 things presenters can do to appear more natural?

Olivia: No, it doesn’t require a lot of practice. It just requires knowing the right things to practice. Given the right directions, a person can transform from stiff and formal to natural in 1-2 minutes.

Arte: Where can a presenter learn more about presenter body language? Where can they learn more about you?

Olivia: Unless you’re a professional speaker speaking to large audiences (100 plus) there’s no need to learn much about presenter body language. Free up your hands and your body, talk to one person at a time as if you were in an animated conversation and you will have natural body language.

If you’re having trouble with freeing up your body language, check out this post on my blog on public speaking.

Olivia Mitchell is based out of Wellington, New Zealand and can be contacted through her website or blog.

Website: Effective Speaking

Blog: Speaking about Presenting

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