Which body-language mistakes should be avoided?

This is the third and final chapter about Body Language. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Focus on the pitfalls of unsuccessful body language

– Introduce six pitfalls that students can practise avoiding

– Provide examples, scenarios and tables to guide the reader

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Chapter 3

Having introduced the concept of body language in Chapter 1 and explored the six most important tips for successful presentations in Chapter 2, this third and final chapter on the topic discusses the six most common pitfalls that students should do their best to avoid – particularly when presenting in academic contexts. Follow these twelve strategies and not only will your grades be likely to increase but your audience will hopefully be better engaged with both you and your content too.


Six Pitfalls to Avoid

1. Fidgeting

This first particularly common mistakes that new presenters make when presenting is fidgeting, such as by rocking from side to side, jiggling a leg up and down or moving too frequently across the performance space. While movements are of course important when presenting, overuse of this type of body language will probably make the presenter appear more unprofessional and unprepared, and will likely distract the audience – perhaps even leading them to feel somewhat uneasy. By controlling your movements, making a conscious effort to not move about too much, and perhaps recording yourself before the live presentation, students should be able to easily avoid this relatively common pitfall.

2. Slouching

As was outlined in Chapter 2, correct posture is very important when presenting as this will enable a presenter to show practice and confidence. Standing up straight with broad shoulders and legs placed half a metre apart is a commonly recommend pose, and slouching is almost the exact opposite of this. By curving a back, reducing height, sinking into a chair or leaning onto a lectern or podium, the presenter may be demonstrating that they’re much too relaxed and are not taking their presentation seriously. Energy and enthusiasm are extremely important during a presentation and are not at all present when slouching. 


3. Using the Wrong Gestures

We outlined seven useful hand gestures in Chapter 2 that you may wish to practice and learn, but do remember also that gestures are a culturally dependent feature of delivery. In truth, the same gesture could have completely different meanings in different countries – such as the simple thumbs up, which is positive in many regions but negative in the Middle East and parts of the subcontinent. Some gestures, in fact, may be quite rude. One such example is the ‘v for victory’ or ‘peace’ gesture in which the two closest fingers to the thumb are extended and isolated. In Asia and America, for instance, this is often a positive and cutesy gesture whichever way the fingers are facing, while in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa, if the nails are facing away from the presenter then this gesture is highly offensive. With this variation in mind, a keen presenter may wish to become more aware of the variation in hand gestures that exist around the world.   


4. Standing Still

Much in the same way that being monotonous affects the delivery of a presentation, standing still when presenting can also appear static and unengaging. A good speaker should instead use careful movements and controlled positioning to maximise their performance space, knowing when to walk towards the audience and when to gesture towards their PowerPoint presentation. Of course, as with most elements of body language, too much is often distracting. An experienced presenter will instead use calm, controlled movements at selective intervals.


5. Looking at the Screen

The fifth pitfall is a student favourite, and that’s turning to face the screen and the PowerPoint presentation. As was outlined in Chapter 2, it’s critical that presenters make an effort to face their audience at all times. If the audience cannot see the front of the presenter, then aspects such as pronunciation, clarity, body language and facial expression may all be lost – negatively affecting the overall performance.

6. Not Involving Visual Aids

Saying that, it’s important also that a presenter is able to incorporate any visual aids that they’ve included in their presentation. This may mean having to turn so that your body is open to both the presentation slides and the audience at the same time. Gesturing towards a PowerPoint slide can be extremely important, particularly when describing data such as graphs or charts or introducing important new concepts. By remembering to involve your visual aid through the use of body language, your audience should feel that you’re better interacting with both them and the supporting elements of your presentation.

Good work on completing this short reader on body language. Students should next consider either completing our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets on this topic to check progress and understanding or move on to another reader on presentation skills.

3 of 3 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed all three chapters about body language, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our body language academic reader (including all three chapters about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

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