The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

What Language Do You Speak?

Effective use of body language is a sure way to establish rapport with your audience during your presentation.  Maintaining eye contact during your presentation is just one effective use of body language.  Do you know what else you should do?

An open posture is a sure way to establish a bond with your audience.  If you are standing in front of the crowd, this simply means you do not place anything between you and your audience.  Hiding behind a lectern or standing at a table impedes your ability to connect with audience members in a real and meaningful way.  If you are relying on your notes during your presentation, by all means use the podium; walk away from time to time to establish the connection with those who are listening to you.

If you find yourself negotiating with audience members, always remember to reduce barriers.  The most obvious barrier is the one you create with your own body.  Crossed arms are “closed”, as are clasped hands and crossed legs.  Barriers impede your ability to establish a strong union.

Hand gestures can effectively emphasize your words.  Clutching your notes or keeping your hands at your side will make you look nervous, stiff, and a little rigid.  Extraordinary communicators, such as Steve Jobs use more gestures than the average speaker, not fewer. There’s even research to back the theory.

Dr. David McNeill, at the University of Chicago, is known for his exhaustive research in the area of hand gestures.  His research has shown that gestures and language are intimately connected.  Dr. McNeill has also discovered that complex gestures (two hands above the waist) reflect complex thought.  Hand gestures actually give the listener confidence in the speaker.  Use hand gestures to emphasize a point.  Be careful, however, that your gestures do not be over rehearsed.  Whether you are standing or sitting, remember to use your hands in a natural way.

Regardless of whom and how many in your audience, always act like the leader you want to be.  Project managers gain the trust and respect of stakeholders when they exude confidence during presentations.  Remember, nonverbal cues often carry the most impact during your presentation.  Presenters are often judged by how they speak and carry themselves.  People are making judgments of you all the time, especially in the first ninety seconds of meeting you.  How you deliver your words and what your body language says about you will live your listeners disappointed or dazzled.  Choose your language carefully.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Your Project Office,


About the Author

Lisa is a leading force in project and business management. She is the founder of Your Project Office, a PMI©Registered Education Provider, and consulting practice dedicated to introducing project management as a business competency. She is the editor of ProjectBestPractices, a quarterly newsletter from ProjectWorld, and a contributor to PM Network Magazine. She's also the author of Simple Solutions: How "Enterprise Project Management" Supported Harvard Pilgrim Health Care's Journey from Near Collapse to #1 and Project Team Dynamics: Enhancing Performance, Improving Results. Scores of organizations – from college campuses to governmental agencies to Fortune 100 companies have gained from Lisa's insights and tell-it-like-it-is keynotes and programs. She offers a variety of topics, ranging from technical project management practices to teambuilding and business leadership. Audience members and workshop participants leave educated, engaged, and energized – armed with actionable practices for immediate success., e-mail
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