Career Watch: In job interviews, watch your body language

Let’s say I’ve prepared a presentation for a large group of colleagues. I’ve mastered the material and run it by a few people to make sure it’s on the mark. I’m reminding myself of some old advice: Smile and make eye contact. What am I forgetting? Slouched posture can telegraph uncertainty or submissiveness. Take ownership of any room with the “champion stance.” Whether speaking before staff members, at a board meeting or at an industry conference, you will look and sound better with good posture. A relaxed yet commanding posture helps you project confidence.

The champion stance is easy to do. Start by placing one foot in front of the other. Then, stand up straight with body weight resting on the back leg. Avoid positioning feet shoulder-width apart, which locks the knees in place. Next, drop your shoulders back and lift your chin slightly. Don’t stick your chest out. The shoulder drop is the secret to carrying yourself like a world champion.

Things like making presentations and being interviewed for a job are stressful for many people. How can a person manage to incorporate your advice on physical presence without coming off as a stiff automaton? Nervous anxiety or self-doubt can trigger “speech mode.” The telltale signs of speech mode are weak eye contact, a ramrod-straight body and a rapid speaking pace. Additionally, some presenters develop tunnel vision as they clamp down on the sides of the lectern. The only movement is limited to neck turns and eye darts. Presenters caught in the grip of speech mode are suffering physically and emotionally.

Upper body movement and hand gestures relax the body language, are interactive and convey enthusiasm. When standing before an audience, turn to face the individual you are talking to. Don’t just turn your neck; rather, look at the person by turning from the waist. Use a hand gesture to hand off a thought. Gestures can underscore central points and are a great way to externalize excess energy or anxiety. Keep the gestures round and smooth. Avoid harsh karate-chop jerks or flipping the wrists.

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