Request a Catalog.

Nonverbal Communication Skills That Affect Presentations

By: AMA Staff

Every manager needs nonverbal communication skills to make a successful presentation. One way to develop those skills is through practice sessions that incorporate the verbal and nonverbal elements of presentations. By paying close attention to your nonverbal communication, you can improve the delivery of your message.

Key Aspects of Nonverbal Communication for Effective Presentations

In AMA’s Effective Executive Speaking seminar, we provide tools and techniques for building awareness of the nonverbal communication factors that impact presentations. Use the following checklist to make your presentations a success:

Facial expressions
One of the key elements of nonverbal communication is your facial expressions. Here are a few points to keep in mind when presenting:

  • Smile appropriately.
  • Relax your face.
  • Let your face add variety and punctuation to the message.
  • Nod for emphasis or to show agreement or a positive attitude.

Eye contact
A necessary component of any successful presentation is eye contact, and understanding the right amount of eye contact is a key skill:

  • Look at the audience, not your notes, the floor, or the ceiling.
  • Establish eye contact around the room with various people or sections of the audience.
  • Hold eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds with a listener.
  • Make eye contact deliberate.  

Movements and gestures
Nonverbal communication is made up primarily of movements and gestures. Identify the right combination of the two to amplify your message:

  • Face your audience whenever possible. Maintain open body language.
  • Move with purpose and for effect, not just for the sake of moving. Move into the group—do not “hug the wall.”
  • Make sure your posture is erect, poised, and balanced.
  • Appear relaxed.
  • Use your arms and hands to add clarity, emphasis, and energy.
  • Keep your hands empty except for a few note cards.
  • Keep your arms at about waist height, and do not lock your elbows against your ribcage.
  • Do not get too busy with your hands and arms—this may create a sense of confusion and disorganization (“frenzied”).
  • Use gestures if you are speaking from a lectern. Do not grasp the sides as if they have some sort of “magic powers.” Set the height of the lectern so that you can easily see your notes, gesture, and be seen from your midsection up to your head.
  • If you are working with a lectern, walk away from it if possible to get closer to your audience and use the attention-getting power of action. If you can’t move away from the lectern, lean forward to create a sense of closeness, gesture effectively, and use a lot of facial expressions.

As you deliver your presentation, the general rule of thumb is to engage in self-monitoring. Be aware of what you are presenting, the verbal and nonverbal elements, and your gestures and body language.

Business leaders must make every presentation a compelling communication. Learn how to inject your style and energy into speeches and presentations.

About the Author(s)

AMA Staff American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

AMA is one of the most widely recognized leaders in business training, having provided corporate training solutions for over 95 years. From leadership, communication and managerial training to sales, customer service and analytical skills, AMA has developed a vast array of content and training solutions to help individuals and organizations achieve business results . Each year, AMA delivers thousands of seminars and courses across the United States. With courses offered in a  classroom near you or live online, AMA is a flexible, convenient resource for all of your organization's talent development needs. AMA also offers customized solutions based on your specific talent development requirements.