Effective Visual Delivery



Appearance: Dress and Posture

First impressions count: dressing appropriately for the occasion and using an open posture can improve the visual delivery of a speech.

Learning Objectives

Explain the value of dressing appropriately and using an open posture when delivering your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The audience may judge the person on their appearance and not really listen to what is being said.
  • Clothing can demonstrate your culture, mood, level of confidence, interests, age, authority, values and sexual identity.
  • Different societies and cultures have different dress norms and understanding the norms of culture helps with public speaking, though Western business styles are now commonly accepted in many countries.
  • Crossed arms, clasped hands and crossed legs signal closed posture, giving the impression of detachment, disinterest and hostility.
  • Open and relaxed hands, a wide stance and looking up demonstrate an open posture and communicate a friendly and positive attitude.
  • Considering what dress is appropriate for the occasion and culture of the audience helps to send a visual message.

Key Terms

  • posture: The way someone holds and positions their body.
  • Dress code: Dress codes are written and, more often, unwritten rules with regard to clothing. Like other aspects of human physical appearance, clothing has a social significance, with different rules and expectations being valid depending on circumstance and occasion.

First Impressions

First impressions of a speaker are important. The audience may judge the person on their appearance and not really listen to what is being said. Considering the effect that dress and posture have on the response to a speech is important for public speaking.

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Dress Style Suffragettes in 1916: The messages sent by clothing have changed since suffragettes marched and spoke up for voting rights.

Dress

Dress is considered an aspect of non-verbal communication and has social significance for the audience. Dress also includes the things that people wear such as jewelry, ties, handbags, hats and glasses. Clothing conveys nonverbal clues about a speaker’s personality, background and financial status. Your clothing style can demonstrate your culture, mood, level of confidence, interests, age, authority, values and sexual identity.

Consider how clothing style might send a negative message. A sloppy appearance, messy hair and wrinkled clothes sends the message, “I don’t care,” while appropriate attire demonstrates the importance of the occasion. A tight dress with a low-cut neckline might appear attractive but not convey the right message for a serious public speaking event. Appropriate dress changes based on the occasion and has changed over history. For example, the “liberated” attire of the suffragette campaigning for voting rights in the early 1900s seems formal and “unliberated” today, but was a daring statement at the time.

The image shows six drawings of the same man wearing streetwear, casual, business casual, smart casual, business/informal, and black tie/semi-formal clothing.

Dress Code: Dress codes and styles vary depending on the occasion.

Dress codes have built-in rules about the message sent by what a person wears and how they wear it. By showing positive aspects of yourself through dress, attire and grooming, you can inspire confidence in your abilities. As a general rule, attire should be chosen according to the type of audience, the event and the purpose. Audience should be considered before choosing attire. Dress should be comfortable without looking overdressed. Additionally, making a fashion statement is not always helpful for a public speaker because it can detract from the substance of the speech.

Tips for the Speaker

  • Dress for the occasion. Consider what dress is appropriate for the event and the culture of the audience.
  • Different societies and cultures have different dress norms and understanding the norms of culture helps with public speaking, though Western business styles are commonly accepted in many countries today.

Posture

If you are speaking to an audience in person, the audience will respond to your posture. Posture is one means of communication. Body movements convey information about interpersonal relations and personality traits such as confidence, submissiveness and openness. The speaker may display an open or closed body position. Those two positions communicate different messages to the audience and can be desirable or undesirable based on the type of visual delivery that is desired.

Closed Posture

Closed posture often gives the impression of detachment, disinterest and hostility. Behaviors that represent closed posture include arms crossed on the chest or abdomen, hands clasped in front of the body and crossed legs. Clothing may also signal closed posture, such as a buttoned suit or a handbag or briefcase held in front of the person. Showing the back of hands or clenched fists can represent a closed posture. Hands clasped behind the back may also signal closed posture even though the front is exposed because it can give the impression of hiding something or resisting closer contact.

Open Posture

Open posture communicates a friendly and positive attitude. The feet are spread wide and the head is straight and raised, looking at the audience. An important element of open posture of the body are the hands. Showing the palms of the hands can be a signal of open posture, especially if the hand is relaxed.

Tips for the Speaker

  • In an in-person, co-located speaking situation where the audience can see your body, the audience responds and it is important to maintain an open body posture.
  • The physical attitude to be taken before the audience really depends, not on mechanical rules, but on the spirit of the speech and the occasion. A person in a hot political argument never has to stop to think about what gesture to use to emphasize a point.

Eye Contact and Facial Expression

Eye contact and facial expressions provide important social and emotional information to the audience.

Learning Objectives

Employ eye contact and smile when giving your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Eyes can indicate interest, attention, and involvement with audience members, while failure to make eye contact may be interpreted as disinterested, inattentive, or rude.
  • Different cultures have different rules for eye contact.
  • The face as a whole communicates emotional states, such as happiness or sadness. The seven universally recognized emotions shown through facial expressions are fear, anger, surprise, contempt, disgust, happiness, and sadness.
  • Human faces are capable of more than 10,000 different expressions.

Key Terms

  • oculesics: a subcategory of kinesics, the study of eye movement, eye behavior, gaze, and eye-related nonverbal communication. Often used interchangeably with eye contact.

Eye contact, also known as oculesics, and facial expression are important aspects of communicating with an audience, providing important social and emotional information.

Midshipman Daniela Giordano makes eye contact while receiving her her winging certificate from Commander Chip Laingen.

Making Eye Contact : Direct and attentive eye contact between the speaker and the receiver is important in one-on-one situations.

Eye Contact

The eyes can indicate interest, attention, and involvement with audience members, while failure to make eye contact can be interpreted as disinterest.

A woman makes direct eye contact.

Form of Communication: For Western audiences, making eye contact is an important form of direct communication.

Gaze includes looking while talking and listening. The length of a gaze, the frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate are all important cues in nonverbal communication. Unless looking at others is a cultural no-no, lookers gain more credibility than non-lookers.

Lack of eye contact is usually perceived to be rude or inattentive in Western cultures. But different cultures have different rules for eye contact. Certain Asian cultures can perceive direct eye contact as a way to signal competitiveness, which in many situations may prove to be inappropriate. Others lower their eyes to signal respect; eye contact is avoided in Nigeria, and between men and women of Islam. However, in Western cultures, lowered eyes and avoiding eye contact could be misinterpreted as lacking self-confidence.

Tips for the Speaker

  • Make eye contact with your audience members, and make sure not to stare at your notes the whole time.
  • If you have a large audience, make sure to alternate talking to the audience members to the right, left, and in front of you.
  • When you begin your speech do not look at your notes, look at your audience! You know your topic and who you are so introduce yourself and your topic as you would introduce yourself when you meet a new person.
  • Practice looking at the audience while rehearsing.
  • Avoid skimming over faces in your audience.

Facial Expression

The face as a whole indicates much about human moods. Specific emotional states, such as happiness or sadness, are expressed through a smile or a frown, respectively. There are seven universally recognized emotions shown through facial expressions:

image

Facial Expressions Betray Emotions: How many of the emotions can you identify in the pictures?

  1. fear
  2. anger
  3. surprise
  4. contempt
  5. disgust
  6. happiness
  7. sadness

Regardless of culture, these expressions are the same. However, the same emotion from a specific facial expression may be recognized by a culture, but the same intensity of emotion may not be perceived.

Facial expressions, more than anything, serve as a practical means of communication. Using all the various muscles that precisely control mouth, lips, eyes, nose, forehead,and jaw, the human face is estimated to be capable of more than 10,000 different expressions. This versatility makes non-verbal facial expressions extremely efficient and honest (unless deliberately manipulated).

Tips for the speaker

People smile when they are happy. Smile before you begin speaking to show the audience that you are happy to be there, and they will smile back. Smiling is contagious.

Movement and Gesture

Natural body movements and gestures can strengthen and enhance the message but repetitive, unnecessary movements can distract from delivery.

Learning Objectives

Use natural body movements and gestures to strengthen your message, while avoiding distracting, unnatural movements

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • You can use your body to communicate positively with the audience by following Hamlet’s advice to suit the action to the word and the word to the action through natural, not mechanical body movements.
  • Repetitive, unnecessary movements such as pacing, swaying back and forth, or bobbing your head up and down can distract the audience from your message.
  • The gesture is subordinate to the message. The gesture is the physical, outward effect which is connected to a thought or emotional impulse.
  • Make sure that the audience can see your hands above the lectern. Hold you hands at least waist-high and make sure to put your notes or other objects on the lectern or podium so your hands are free to move.

Key Terms

  • Kinesics: Kinesics is the interpretation of body language such as facial expressions and gestures — or, more formally, non-verbal behavior related to movement, either of any part of the body or the body as a whole.
  • gesture: A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of speech or together and in parallel with words.
  • Lectern: A lectern is a desk with a slanted top, usually placed on a stand or affixed to some other form of support, on which documents or books are placed as support for reading or speaking aloud. Lecterns are generally used while standing.

Kinesics

Kinesics is the study of body movement and expression such as waving, pointing, touching, and slouching. The movement of the body conveys many specific meanings to an audience but can be misinterpreted in an intercultural setting.

Body Movement can Support the Message

You can use your body to communicate positively with the audience. Hamlet’s advice to the players in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1601 has merit today: Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.

Consider some examples of how you might naturally support your delivery.

  • Upper body toward the audience – You might want to lean into the audience to bridge the space of separation.
  • Feet and legs – You may move purposefully from one side to the other to show a transition from one point to another.
  • Arms and chest- If you cross your arms in front of you, what does this mean to the audience? It could be construed as confrontational or that are you in deep thought about a question from an audience member.
  • Stand still without movement – If you are listening to a question, you can stand still without movement to show your interest.

Body Movements can Distract from the Message

Just as natural body movements can strengthen the message, unnecessary movements can distract from delivery. Here are some examples of movements which distract:

  • Swaying back and forth – If you sway back and forth at the lectern or podium in a pattern without purpose, the audience may follow the movement rather than the message.
  • Pacing from one side to other – If you pace from one side of the front of the room to the other meaninglessly, the audience will follow the movement.
  • Moving a hand repetitively – If you use your hand to move your hair out of your eyes constantly while speaking, the audience will focus on the movement rather than what you are saying.

Tips for the Speaker

  • Have a friend observe or record you while you speak. Review the recording for distracting, repetitive movements.
  • Remember to strive for natural movements of the body. Body movements that are planned and mechanical will call undue attention to you and distract.
  • If you are having difficulty focusing while speaking you might consider mind-body exercises which combine body movement with mental focus and controlled breathing.

Gestures

A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages such as the open gesture of Desmond Tutu. Gestures may be made with almost any movable part of the body. Our focus will be speech related gestures, primarily of the hand and arm. Gestures can be categorized as either speech independent or speech related.

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Using Gestures: Desmond Tutu gestures with his hands wide apart in an open body position during a speech at One Young World.

  • Speech-independent gestures depend upon culturally accepted interpretation and have a direct verbal translation. A wave or a V for a peace sign are examples of speech-independent gestures.
  • Speech-related gestures are used in parallel with verbal speech. This form of nonverbal communication is used to emphasize the message. Speech-related gestures are intended to provide supplemental information to a verbal message such as pointing to an object of discussion.

Gestures can Support the Message

A speech-related gesture is an outward expression of an inward condition. It is merely the effect of a mental or an emotional impulse expressed physically. You may rarely know in advance what gestures you will use to make a point. You may use one gesture to support your message one day and another on a different day. The gesture is subordinate to the message. You might count off the points on your finger, you may point with your full arm extended to some object or direction, you may outline sizes and shapes, or you might use a gesture to show emphasis.

Unnatural Gestures can Distract from the Message

You may develop a repertoire of gestures for different purposes, but remember the most natural gesture is one that is motivated by the content of your message. It does not call attention to itself, but flows naturally with the message. If you are troubled by your gestures, or a lack of gestures, attend to the cause, not the effect. It will not help matters to tack a few mechanical movements onto your delivery.

Tips for the Speaker

  • Make sure that the audience can see your hands above the lectern. Hold you hands at least waist-high and make sure to put your notes or other objects on the lectern so your hands are free to move.
  • Hold your hands at least waist-high throughout your entire presentation; this will increase the likelihood that you’ll gesture spontaneously at least once in a while.

Adapting to Handouts and Visuals

Visual aids can play a large role in how the audience understands and processes the information that is presented.

Learning Objectives

Employ visual aids effectively

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • There are many different types of visual aids, such as handouts and projections of PowerPoint slides.
  • Make sure your visual aid uses readable text and graphics. People identify items more quickly when using graphics in addition to text alone.
  • A handout can help the audience remember what was said long after the presentation, but passing them out can be extremely distracting. Once a handout is given out, it might be difficult to bring back the attention of your audience. Distribute the handout right before you reference it.
  • Only show the audience what you are presenting at the moment and move on.

Key Terms

  • Visual Aid: Visual aids are often used to help audiences of informative and persuasive speeches understand the topic being presented. There are many different types of visual aids that range from handouts to Power Point slide presentation.

Adapting to Handouts and Visuals

Visual aids are used to help audiences understand and process the information being presented. There are many different types of visual aids from handouts to projections of PowerPoint slides.

A woman shows a PowerPoint slide on a projector at the front of a classroom.

Visuals: PowerPoint slides are commonly used to provide visual support to longer presentations.

Planning ahead is important when using visual aids. It is necessary to choose a visual aid that is appropriate for the material and audience. Thus, it is important for speakers to understand how to use handouts and other speech components correctly so that visuals help, and not distract or confuse listeners. Handouts in particular can be passed out before, during, or after the speaker’s presentation. This allows the presenter to provide audience members with supporting facts, data, or tips that may otherwise be overlooked while being displayed on an overhead projector or screen.

Types of Visual Aids

You can bring an actual object to exhibit during the speech. Objects are often necessary when demonstrating how to do something such as tying knots. As a drawback, some objects are unavailable or too large.

Models can represent how an object or system works, such as the solar system. Models can serve as substitutes that provide better examples of the real thing to the audience. However, models may take away from the reality of what is being spoken. For instance, a model may make it more difficult to comprehend how vast the solar system actually is.

Graphs are used to visualize the relationships between different quantities. There are many useful types including bar graphs, line graphs, and pie graphs. Graphs can help the audience visualize statistics, resulting in a greater impact. However, graphs can easily become cluttered with too much detail.

Mapsshow geographic areas or the location of something. As with graphs, too much detail on a map can cause the audience to lose focus.

Tables use columns and rows to organize words, symbols, or data. Tables make it easy to understand the comparison of facts, but they may not be interesting or pleasing to the eye. They can also overwhelm audience members with too much information.

Photographs can be prepared quickly with inexpensive digital cameras. Photographs are good tools to make or emphasize a point or to explain a topic when the real object can not be physically or legally presented. However, enlarging photographs can be expensive if not using a projector.

Drawings or diagrams can be created to show specific focus, especially when a photograph is too detailed or does not show important parts. However, drawings or diagrams can look sloppy and unprofessional.

The Format Of Visual Aids

You can deliver your visual aid in different media or formats depending on your budget and the availability of supplies and equipment. Some examples include:

  • Chalkboards or whiteboards are very useful, particularly when more advanced types of media are unavailable. They are cheap and also allow for much flexibility.
  • Poster boardscan display charts, graphs, pictures, or illustrations. It is relatively light weight; nonetheless, make sure to attach the poster so it does not fall over during the speech.
  • Handouts can also display charts, graphs, pictures, or illustrations. A handout can be taken away to remember after the presentation. Passing out handouts can be extremely distracting. Distribute the handout right before you reference it since it might be difficult to bring back the attention of your audience if given out too far in advance.
  • Video can be a great attention grabber. Make sure to transition smoothly into the video and to only show short clips.
  • Overhead projectors are still used but require you to develop a transparency of what is to be projected. You can connect a computer to a projection system in a large room for PowerPoint presentations or to project files or images from the Internet.

Tips for the Speaker

Speakers should heed to the following tips:

  • Only show the audience what you are presenting at the moment and move on. If using a chalkboard or whiteboard, create your drawing and then cover it until its ready for use.
  • Incorporate handouts into the presentation and only distribute them when they are going to be used.
  • Make sure the text and graphics are easy to read.

Proxemics

Social distance between people is reliably correlated with physical distance: intimate, personal, social and public.

Learning Objectives

Apply knowledge of space and distance zones to the physicality of your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Intimate distance is for touching and whispering, less than 6 inches to 18 inches; personal distance is for talking to good friends or family, 1.5 to 4 feet; social distance for interactions among acquaintances, 4 to 12 feet; and public distance for public speaking, 12-25 feet.
  • Generally, public speaking will occur in the far phase of the social distance from 7-12 feet for small group lecture, and primarily in the public distance from 12-25 feet.
  • Public speaking events are likely to occur in a secondary territory, such as a regular meeting place for a group, or a public territory, which is reserved for the event and used by many different groups who do not have claim to the space.
  • At the most basic level, the speaker who is using public space needs to make sure that the voice is loud enough to be heard and that all members of the audience can see the speaker, gestures, and any supporting visual materials.

Key Terms

  • territoriality: associated with nonverbal communication that refers to how people use space to communicate ownership/occupancy of areas and possessions.
  • proxemics: The study of the effects of the physical distance between people in different cultures and societies.

Use of Space and Distance Zones

Proxemics is the study of how people use and perceive the physical space around them. The space between the sender and the receiver of a message influences the way the message is interpreted. In addition, the perception and use of space varies significantly across cultures and different settings within cultures.

Body spacing and posture, according to Edward T. Hall, are unintentional reactions to sensory fluctuations or shifts, such as subtle changes in the sound and pitch of a person’s voice. Social distance between people is reliably correlated with physical distance, as are intimate and personal distance, according to the delineations below. Hall did not mean for these measurements to be strict guidelines that translate precisely to human behavior, but rather a system for gauging the effect of distance on communication and how the effect varies between cultures and other environmental factors.

According to Hall in his book, The Hidden Dimension, space in nonverbal communication may be divided into four main categories: intimate, social, personal, and public space.

A diagram that shows the distances for intimate space, personal space, social space, and public space.

Distance Zones: It is important for individuals recognize the various distances regarding space.

Intimate distance for embracing, touching, or whispering.

  • Close phase – less than 6 inches (15 cm)
  • Far phase – 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm)

Personal distance for interactions among good friends or family members.

  • Close phase – 1.5 to 2.5 feet (46 to 76 cm)
  • Far phase – 2.5 to 4 feet (76 to 120 cm)

Social distance for interactions among acquaintances.

  • Close phase – 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)
  • Far phase – 7 to 12 feet (2.1 to 3.7 m)

Public distance used for public speaking.

  • Close phase – 12 to 25 feet (3.7 to 7.6 m)
  • Far phase – 25 feet (7.6 m) or more.

Territoriality: Claiming Your Space

The concept of terrritoriality parallels proxemics and helps to explain how you lay claim to the space around you. There are four territories associated with different distance:

  1. Primary territory: This refers to an area that is associated with someone who has exclusive use of it. An example is a house that others cannot enter without the owner’s permission.
  2. Secondary territory: Unlike primary territory, there is no “right” to occupancy of secondary territory, but people may still feel some degree of ownership of such space as they develop the custom of occupying it. For example, someone may sit in the same seat in church every week and feel irritated if someone else sits there.
  3. Public territory: this refers to an area that is available to all, but only for a set period, such as a parking space or a seat in a library. Although people have only a limited claim over that space, they often extend that claim. For example, it was found that people take longer to leave a parking space when someone is waiting to take that space.
  4. Interaction territory: this is space held by others when they are interacting. For example, when a group is talking to each other on a footpath, others will walk around the group rather than disturb their interaction territory.

Generally, public speaking will occur in the far phase of the social distance and primarily in the public distance. The audience may be in a secondary space which they normally occupy or in a public territory which is set aside for the particular event.

Tips for Speaker

  • At the most basic level, the speaker who is using public space needs to make sure that the voice is loud enough to be heard and that all members of the audience can see the speaker, gestures, and any supporting visual materials.
  • But, going beyond the basic considerations, the speaker may want to consider strategies for making the public space more social and personal to achieve conversational goals. If appropriate, the speaker may move off the platform and into the very front of the audience or move among the audience while speaking.
  • The speaker should determine if the seating is fixed in one direction or movable in order to plan any activity within the audience such as informal or small group activities.

Remember, in the public territory of the speaking event, the speaker only has the space for a limited period of time and needs to use that time efficiently.