The Language and Speech Center teach how to effectively present in front of others

Written by: 
Emi Wainwright


On Feb. 7, three Language and Speech Center employees hosted a workshop on body language and how it can help people feel more confident and make more friends. They called the event “Speed Friending.” Later that night the same body language workshop was held, giving more students the opportunity to attend.

The three presenters were Vani Malani, a BYU–Hawaii alumna from Fiji and TESOL education major, Hannah Jansson, a freshman from Sweden double majoring in business supply-chain management and finance, and Kristi Aurich, a sophomore from Arizona also majoring in TESOL.

The presentation given by Malani, Jansson, and Aurich was called “10 Powerful Body Language Tips for your next presentation.” One of the services they provide in the Language and Speech Center is helping students practice the presentations they have to give in their classes.

According to Jansson, being genuine can make interviews more comfortable. She said, “Show interest in the other person. Don’t make it all about yourself. It’s hard to get to know someone else if it’s all about you. Listen, ask questions, and show them you’re interested in getting to know them and knowing who they are.”

“I agree with asking questions,” said Aurich, “that is definitely a way to open up a conversation. Find out about their interests through questions. Learn more about each other.”

Malani suggested inviting people to different activities. “There’s so many that happen on campus, or even with your own small group of friends. So you can just ask people, ‘hey, you guys want to come with me?’ Invitations are always a good way to make friends.”

Discouraging self-doubt, Aurich said, “Don’t put yourself in a box. Like, ‘oh, I’m shy, I can’t make friends.’ And don’t put people in boxes as well, and tell yourself, ‘oh, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me.’ You know? Just be open to making friends.”

Kimberly Tokanang, a freshman from Kiribati majoring in political science, said she loved the workshop. “When I first came in, I loved how the teachers welcomed everybody. I loved how the people, even though we don’t know each other, were willing to talk with each other.”

Tokanang said it is often a challenge for her to present in front of a lot of people. The tips opened her eyes to ways she can improve in interacting with others. She said she also loved the discussion they had during the workshop when one student shared a personal experience about struggling during a recent presentation. “I realized I’m not alone, I’m not the only one who struggles with this.”

The 10 body language tips shared by Jansson, Malani, and Aurich were part of a vibrant PowerPoint presentation: 

1. “To boost your confidence during your presentation, keep your back straight. This position will make you breathe better and you’ll feel more relaxed”. Malani said, “This gives the impression that you’re confident in what you’re talking about.”

2. To make your audience comfortable, simply smile at them. Smiling is our most powerful weapon.

“It helps you feel better and them more comfortable,” said Aurich, who stressed the importance of trying to act natural. She smiled extra big. “You don’t need to smile the whole time. That’s really awkward,” she said, still grinning and making students laugh.

3. To engage people, gesture with your arms and hands in a natural way, and look your audience in the eye. People tend naturally to pay attention and to like people who look them in the eye.

Jansson said, “it’s easier to focus on what someone is saying when they’re saying it to you.”

4. To demonstrate authority, keep calm and use small and stiff gestures. This way people will trust you and view you as a confident person.

Malani said the movements do not have to be exaggerated. Aurich added, “You’re not karate chopping as you speak,” as she playfully swung her arms, making the students laugh again.

5. To bring movement to your speech, use the physical space you have available and walk it.

Aurich said, “Moving around makes you feel more natural. You’re also showing authority and claiming your space during a presentation.” She advised against walking in circles around friends however, and demonstrated how silly it looked as she walked around Malani as she spoke.

6. To keep your audience’s attention, vary your gestures. Open gestures, small gestures, gestures that involve your head, arms and hands

7. To draw attention to a certain element of the presentation, point directly at it and look at it on the screen at the same time. Your audience will follow your eyes and finger.

Jansson said she once watched a presenter who used the gestures in tips six and seven. She said he would point to certain parts of the graph he was talking about. “It made it much easier for me to grasp what he was trying to say. Using his hands helped him convey his message and helped his audience understand the point he was trying to get across.”

8. To encourage audience participation, use open gestures and if possible walk around and toward people. We tend to participate more when we have proximity to a speaker.

Aurich suggested being as animated and interactive as possible with the audience. “Don’t read every word on a PowerPoint.” She said people pay attention more when the presenter is not just standing behind a podium and reading words off a slide.

9. To make a hard question seem easier, pause, and breathe slowly. This will give you time to think. Answer while looking the questioner in the eye.

Jansson exclaimed, “Even if you’re not comfortable pretend that you are. Sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Do power pauses that will draw attention. Take a moment to calm down and think. Breathe. When we’re nervous we tend to get out of breath, so breathe. Focus on your audience.”

10. To make your audience buy your story, use positive gestures during the entire presentation: nodding, open gestures, smiling, mirroring, etc.

Jansson said, “Mirroring body language gives the impression you’re on the same page... you’re one with them, you have unity. They feel like they can relate to you and that you understand them. You connect.”


Date Published: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019