Skills Earth Sciences

Body language

A lot of non-verbal communication is going on during your presentation. Your body language speaks volumes, and it can be very helpful to record yourself to see if you move in ways you aren’t aware of. Here are a few tips on how to present in a calm, professional manner:

  • Place both your feet slightly spread solidly on the ground. Keep your back straight, your head high.
  • Look at your audience. If you find this difficult you can pick a few people as focal points and alternate between them. Don’t look at your notes too much and keep your glances to the monitor or the projection screen short and regular rather than long. Try not to read directly off the screen.
  • Hand gestures are often used to guide the focus of your audience to certain areas of the screen or emphasise your point. Keep your motions relaxed and bring your hands back to a “rest position” in front or next to your body, or even behind your back. You can change the position of your hands continuously during a presentation, but make sure your hand gestures do not distract from the message you want to bring across.
    • Gestures like fiddling with your clothes and hair are very distracting for the audience. If you find this challenging, can always use a stress ball or a sensory fidget, but preferably one without sound or light.
  • Try not to walk around too much. You can occasionally switch to different sides of the screen, and move closer or further away, but too much movement is distracting. If you tend to walk around a lot, be careful not to pace in front of the screen. It can help to confine yourself to an imaginary square on the floor.
  • Maintaining eye-contact is not always easy, but when another person is speaking, don’t look anywhere other than the screen, the presenter, or the audience. The audience will follow your line of sight, looking away frequently can come across as disinterested.
  • Giving a neat and professional presentation also relies on a clean, professional appearance. In Earth sciences it is not customary to dress is formal attire (like a suit) for a class presentation, or even for some research conferences. However, you can only make a good first impression once. It costs very little extra effort to look the part.