17 Tips For Facial Expressions In Speeches And Presentations

What public speakers should know about facial expressions
Facial expression

The importance of facial expressions in public speaking

 

When the topic of body language appears in the context of the speech, it is usually the question “Where to put my hands? Mimic is discussed, if at all, with the hint of smiling. This is a pity, because facial expressions have a lot to offer and also the potential to cause damage if they are not appropriate. What does not fit the personality and role of the speaker is unintentionally funny, damages credibility and distracts from the content and the message.

The article deals with what it is worth paying attention to as a speaker concerning facial expressions.

Body language, facial expressions, and public speaking

 

In addition to the content of the speech, as a verbal part, the way of presentation and the non-verbal behavior are of particular importance. These include gestures, eye contact, eye direction, body tension, leg posture, volume, intonation and, often forgotten, pauses. Pauses before a message produce tension and after a message, they let the message work. In modern rhetoric, facial expressions have become less important than in the past. A facial expression that is too pronounced quickly has a theatrical and posed an effect on the audience. 

 

 

 

So facial expressions are no longer important?

 

Mimic is still important because public speakers who want to convince have to be authentic. And that includes lively facial expressions. Instead of orienting the facial expressions to Asian theatre masks or the pantomime from the pedestrian zone, Method-Acting delivers better results. If you mean what you say, this also includes the corresponding emotional states. If you experience inwardly with all your senses what you verbalize, then your face provides the appropriate facial expression anyway. At least as long as you haven’t stopped it with nerve poison against wrinkles.

Leave that deadpan expression to poker players and some politicians. A good presenter realizes that appropriate facial expressions are an important part of effective communication. Facial expressions are often the key determinant of the meaning behind the message. The audience is watching a speaker’s face during a presentation. When you speak, your face tells more clearly than any other part of your body about your attitudes, feelings, and emotions.

17 tips for facial expressions in your speeches and presentations

 

Your impact as a speaker depends heavily on your body language. You probably have control over the words you speak, are you sure you have control over what you say with your body language?

 

 

 

1. Authentic, authentic, authentic

 

An effective body language supports the message and conveys a strong image of the speaker. Anything that does not fit the personality and role of a public speaker and the message will unintentionally appear funny, damage credibility and distract from content and message. Those who mean what they say can automatically display the appropriate facial expressions. This is a frequent topic in my presentation training. Few speakers know how they affect the audience. A professional analysis is very revealing here.

 

 

 

2. Smiling is contagious

 

Unfortunately, many people lose their lively facial expression under the pressure of speaking in front of an audience. Their faces solidify into a mask. Free your face right at the beginning. For example, when you are welcoming the audience, smile!

With a smile or even a laugh, it is easier to build a bridge to other people. This looks open and friendly. A real smile comes from within and is based on the right mental attitude and not on a mask. Such a permanent grin looks different from a real smile, which is called a Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile is named after Guillaume Duchenne, a French anatomist who studied many different expressions of emotion, focusing on the smile of pure enjoyment. He identified the facial movements that make this genuine smile different from artificial types of smiles. A Duchenne smile is a natural smile of enjoyment, made by contracting the zygomatic major muscle and the orbicularis oculi muscle. In my words; the mouth, the eyes and the wrinkles around the eyes are involved and smile, the cheeks lifting.

 

 

 

3. Emotions

 

It is the presenter’s connection to the words that can bring them to life for the audience. Experience inwardly intensively what you want to convey and the facial expressions will reflect it. Less is more! Please do not grimace.

 

 

4. Lead with your gaze

 

The audience will register where you’re looking. In this way, you can direct the attention of the audience with your gaze. Look where the audience should look.

And be careful with misunderstandings. If you keep looking at the door, it will look as if you would like to escape.

 

 

 

5. Eye contact is connecting

 

If they don’t fit, they can undermine any of your words.

Good speakers know how important facial expressions are. Effective presenters engage one person at a time, focusing long enough to complete a natural phrase and watch it sink in for a moment. With a smile, they convey appreciation to the audience.

Keep looking at all faces, be attentive. Return a smile. Use clues such as a frown as an occasion to repeat or inquire about a statement in other words.

 

 

 

6. Pulling up the corners of your mouth on one side

 

Some facial expressions can irritate. One-sided lifting of the corners of the mouth can be interpreted as a sign of superiority and the speaker is then accused of arrogance or cynicism.

 

 

 

7. Enduring smile

 

A permanent smile seems artificial, complacent or even debilitating. Speakers don’t do themselves any favors.

Such behavior is reminiscent of bad show presenters or used car salesmen from US films. If you smile without a break, you make your counterpart suspicious. Beware of bad facial expressions, i.e. a superimposed smile.

If there are moments during your speech when you want to make the audience think, then that doesn’t fit. When you put on an artificial smile, nobody takes you seriously.

 

 

 

8. A tense jaw

 

Someone who presses their teeth vigorously against each other may look angry and aggressive or at least cramped.

 

 

 

9. Smiling and showing teeth

 

What is more common in the USA is irritating in Germany, for example, than piranha smiles. Superficiality and an unfair sales mentality are easily assumed.

 

 

 

10. Grasping the nose or the mouth

 

Do not touch your nose, mouth or chin during your speech. This is a classic sign of insecurity and is quickly perceived as negative by your audience.

Since Pinocchio this has been considered a sign of lies and why should you voluntarily sow doubt?

 

 

 

11. Other delicate facial expressions

 

In my articles, The body language soothes or harms in delicate situations and 12 tips on how to promote confidence through body language you will find advice on how body language can help and how it can hurt.

 

 

 

12. Adapt your facial expressions to the size of the group.

 

As your audience grows, your facial expressions should become more pronounced. If the audience in the last row is not able to read your face, your facial expression will be perceived as a neutral expression and thus as your lack of interest.

 

 

 

13. Explore the effect of facial expressions

 

The facial expression usually has a small part in the presentation, which is why its role tends to be underestimated. It plays an important role in convincing the speaker and the message. It is worth exploring the impact.

 

Using all the various muscles that precisely control the mouth, lips, eyes, nose, forehead, and jaw, the human face is estimated to be capable of more than 10,000 different expressions. Explore different ways to use facial expressions. Start with the most common facial expressions and emotions.

There are seven universally recognized emotions shown through facial expressions:

  • anger
  • disgust
  • contempt
  • fear
  • happiness
  • sadness
  • surprise

 

Regardless of culture, these expressions are the same all over the world. They may differ in intensity.

 

 

 

14. Observe your audience

 

Just as your facial expressions provide insight into your emotions, your audience’s facial expressions provide insight into their emotional world.

Read the facial expressions of your audience. If the audience’s expressions are expressionless, for example, there is a possibility that they are intellectually elsewhere because they are bored. Or their facial expressions convey joy and excitement or they are eagerly receptive or…

By reading your audience’s facial expressions, you are better able to make spontaneous decisions and adjustments to capture attention.

 

 

 

15. Using a lectern or manuscript

 

Wherever your speech manuscript is located, whether as a pile of paper on the lectern or as key point cards in your hand, always avoid looking at the notes all the time. Learn from me how to keep in touch with the audience.

 

 

 

16. Practice, practice, practice

 

As with any presentation skill, facial expression requires practice to develop it to be both authentic and effective. Presenters who care deeply about their message tend to use their entire bodies to support the message.

Practice your presentation and the things you have experienced with me in front of a mirror to concentrate exclusively on your facial expressions during a rehearsal. While practicing in front of the mirror, see if your facial expressions convey the mood you want to create. If your face isn’t showing any emotion, stop, refocus, and do it again. This will help you to explore your expression playfully. The best way to do this is with professional support.

 

 

 

 

17. Support

 

As a professional speech coach, I will not practice masks with you but will point out potential misunderstandings and promote corresponding situations from within.

Preparation of important speeches and presentations

 

Those who do not speak are not heard and even those who speak up are not always successful. There are a few more steps that need to be mastered.

You want to convince with your message and also as a personality? Then I will help you to prepare your speeches and presentations. You determine the scope. At least I recommend a test run with professional feedback for you and your message. Then you will know how you and your content are perceived, what you should do and what you should leave out, where there is potential. Why do you want to get such helpful feedback so late after your real performance? Then it is too late for adjustments. Benefit from the advantage. My definition of luck: Preparation meets opportunity.

You can best estimate for yourself where the effort is worthwhile in relation to the expected benefit. Here you will find the fees for my support (communication, psychology, language, structure, voice, body language, storytelling, rhetorical means, media such as PowerPoint and Co. etc.)

You are not in Berlin right now? Then choose meetings with me via telephone or video support. Whereby there are quite good reasons for a trip to Berlin.

By the way, many people suffer from such intense stage fright in front of an audience and therefore their performance clearly lags behind their personal possibilities. Too bad, because with my help a performance in a good condition is possible. Just in case...

A good start: Professional feedback with recommendations for improvements

 

How convincing are you and your messages in speeches and presentations? How good are you in the 111 most important presentation skills? I have been analyzing speeches since 1998. After evaluating 14,375 speeches and presentations, I can tell you very precisely what has which effect on which audience. Let me give you the feedback that will help you get ahead. You will receive essential feedback and recommendations, as well as the impulses you need to convince your audience in concrete situations.

Are you interested? Then you will find here the information on feedback with recommendations for improvements of speeches and presentations.

Just ask me personally

Let's get into a conversation. I'd love to hear from you. Please post any questions that may interest other readers in the comments. If you are interested in coaching or training, for personal questions about that and appointments you can reach me by e-mail (mail@karstennoack.com), phone +49(0)30 864 213 68 and mobile phone +49(0)1577 704 53 56. You can also use this contact form. Please read the information about the privacy policy.

 

Karsten Noack

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What do you think of humor in speeches and presentations?

1 Comment

  1. Those are many factors.

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Presenters who care deeply about their message tend to use their entire bodies to support the message. - Karsten Noack

This article is a short excerpt from the more comprehensive course materials my clients receive in a group or individual training or coaching.

Published: June 27, 2019
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: August 19, 2019
Translation: August 19, 2019
German version: https://www.karstennoack.de/rhetorik-mimik-koerpersprache/
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T: RR
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