Take Your Hands Out of Your Pockets!

10 Mannerisms That Can Kill an Effective Presentation

The wife had spent hours preparing a beautiful meal for the evening guests. As she took out the rich cream dessert from the refrigerator to lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ disaster struck. The dish accidentally slipped and did a bottoms up transforming the perfectly decorated sweet into an indescribable splodge on the floor.

The lesson? Excellent preparation and contents can be destroyed by poor delivery!

You can have a wonderful speech worked out having sweated long and hard on it, only to have an effective presentation killed through poor delivery. To be specific, delivery marred by mannerisms and awkward gestures.

Mannerisms can be a major distraction for an audience. Some may find them mildly amusing, others irritating. The problem is, we often don’t realize we have a mannerism. It takes someone to point it out. Either that or we see it if we watch a playback video of ourselves.

Here is a checklist of 10 common mannerisms that can drive an audience to distraction. Ask a close friend or relative to critique your next presentation and ensure you are not making these mistakes:

1. Standing with one leg wrapped around the other
This can indicate shyness. It can also make an individual unstable so they may even sway a little.

2. Standing on the sides of one’s shoes
This behavior is sometimes seen in young children. With all their energy they find it difficult sometimes to stand firmly on both feet so they explore various ways of standing. For a speaker, it can expose feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness in front of an audience.

3. Frequently touching the nose, mouth, ears, or any part of the face
These mannerisms are very unfortunate. Body language experts tell us that frequent touching of the face or scratching behind the ear indicates deception or lying. This category is a definite NO NO for anyone wishing to make an effective presentation.

4. Leaning on the speaker’s stand using it as a prop
This posture can convey an overly casual attitude, or perhaps, over-familiarity with an audience. Some may feel you are taking liberties.

5. Putting hands in and out of pockets
This can indicate a lack of self-confidence or tell the audience the speaker feels uncomfortable in front of them.

6. Fiddling with one’s wrist watch
This action betrays nervousness. The speaker might as well say out loud: “Somebody help me! What do I do with my hands?” It can make an audience feel a little sorry for the speaker.

7. Repeatedly swallowing
Nervousness can lead to a dry throat so the speaker feels the need to swallow frequently to lubricate the throat. At worst it can suggest dishonesty.

8. Buttoning and unbuttoning the jacket
This action can indicate a speaker feels very uncomfortable. One moment they have the jacket buttoned up. The next minute, perhaps because they are feeling too hot, they unbutton it. A little later they feel too exposed and button it again. All in all, it shows the speaker is paying more attention to themselves than to their presentation.

9. Standing with hands clasped behind the back
This posture can raise questions in the minds of some regarding your trustworthiness according to some researchers. People can get suspicious if they can’t see what your hands are doing! So if you want the audience to trust you and have confidence in you, rather than put your hands behind your back, let them drop naturally to the sides when you are not gesturing.

10. Repeating same emphatic gesture
Using the finger or hand to make a strong point through an emphatic gesture is one thing. To keep on repeating the gesture throughout your presentation negates the power of emphatic gestures and renders them annoying mannerisms. Make sure you don’t punctuate everything you say with the same emphatic gesture.

In Conclusion

To be fair, the observations noted above are not written in stone. Some of the gestures and postures mentioned may in some settings indicate a relaxed speaker and certainly not one who is devious and manipulative.

However, being aware that these mannerisms and awkward gestures can have these negative connotations should make us very cautious. You don’t want your excellent material to end up as good as dumped on the floor in an indescribable mess because your audience was so distracted by inappropriate body language!

If you really want to deliver an effective presentation, concentrate not just on what you say, but how you deliver it.

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Article written by David F. James. Would you like to transform your presentation skills? Do you need help with preparing and developing an upcoming presentation? I offer an Online Workshop and Personal Coaching. Check out the details here: http://www.vitalpresentationskills.com

Follow David  on Twitter for great tips and suggestions for public speaking and skillful presentations: http://twitter.com/VPSkills

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