at Hillwood Academy, Uttarakhand, India
Trainer & Head of Operations, Otermans Institute
Chief Product Officer, Solar Botanic
Researcher, Brunel University London
Some of our free lessons that you should learn after completing this lesson.
Now that you have made it to the interview, it is your job to sell yourself. You have already listed your skills and experiences in your CV and have proven your written prowess through your cover letter which have cumulatively brought you to this stage. Now we, at Otermans Institute, believe that probably the next most important aspect of presenting yourself is non-verbal communication, which in other words is your body language. It is important that you are able to send the right message with your body language to your audience. Before you have a chance to talk, especially in settings like interviews, the first thing people notice about you is your body language.
When your body language is open, other people see you as more confident and honest and will respond in a more kind and trusting manner. If they see you in this way, this has an effect on how you see yourself; your confidence and self-esteem increase. A closed body language such as crossing your arms and putting your hands in your pockets sends the following messages: “I don’t want to be seen”, “I don’t want to be rejected.” Therefore, force yourself to avoid these natural instincts and not cross your arms or put your hands in your pocket, but keep your shoulders back, feet firm on the ground at hips-width, and hold your head high.
The quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived by people. Make sure the volume is suited to the occasion. Don’t shout, don’t whisper, but make sure that you talk loud enough that everybody in the room can hear you clearly. The tone of your voice is also important. Don’t be monotonous, alter your tone to keep your audience engaged. Show your passion and excitement by raising your voice and make your audience curious and interested by talking softer and slower. Also, ensure the pitch of your voice is not too high or too low. Speakers with lower pitched voices are seen as more empathic, powerful, and confident than those talking in a high pitch. As a final tip: Don’t rush your talk, take pauses, and keep your audience on your lips.
You can also see this video from our previous lesson on 'introducing yourself' to witness a practical example from an expert that is freely available for viewing.
Forcing a smile, even if you are not in the mood or nervous, stimulates your body to produce happiness hormones. This not only instantly makes you feel better, but people see you as more attractive, reliable, relaxed, and sincere. It is also evidenced that you should talk with a smile on your face while on the phone to make your verbal communication sound happier and create more of a connection with your listener.
In the normal classroom training by Otermans Institute, we emphasise heavily on eye contact as a tool to improve your body language and your soft skills in general. Make eye contact but don’t keep staring at the same person for too long, as it can make people uncomfortable. Besides one person getting uncomfortable by being stared at, the others in the room will get uncomfortable because you are not engaging with them.
A quick tip: If you find it difficult to create and maintain eye contact with people, which is very common for many people, you can use the following tip until you get more confident at maintaining genuine eye contact through practice. You can, only as a short-term measure, look at a spot just a centimeter above a persons’ eyes. This is displayed as the green dot in the figure. To the listener, it feels like you are making eye contact and in this way you can avoid the slight tinklings in your spine that may be caused by genuine eye contact.
Also, remember that when one person asks you a question, you should ensure that the answer is also interesting for the others interviewing you or listening to you. So, focus your eye contact on the person who asks you the question, but don’t forget to give attention to the rest. As a tip: Initially while speaking, you can always move your head and shift your eye contact from left to right, even if it is for a fraction of a second per person.
In addition, we at Otermans Institute believe that eye contact is a good way to get feedback and see if your audience is still engaged to what you have to say. After practicing the previous tips, and when you are comfortably able to hold eye contact, you will be able to understand shifts in people’s engagement simply through their eyes. You will start developing actions you have to take with your body language to get them back into it. This last part is something you can practice on your own in a few weeks after you have mastered the basic skills from this lesson.
At Otermans Institute we believe that after your eyes, it is your hands that are a significantly powerful body tool to communicate with. By using hand gestures, you can lay accents on certain parts of your speech and bring power to your words by portraying visuals. These make it easier for your audience to visualise your speech and almost add a visual dimension to it. When using hand gestures, keep in mind to have an open posture to demonstrate honesty; remember the first point. For instance, showing the palm of your hands rather than the back is a more open posture; see image below.
Since they are so useful in communication, remember that your hands can also be your worst enemy, they can easily show how nervous or unprepared you are. However good your eye contact, voice, and posture are, once your hand starts playing with your hair or pen, or fidgeting with your clothes, that is the one and only thing people will focus on and not your actual talk.
The tips in this lesson are not only applicable to interviews, but can be transferred to any type of speaking and presentation scenario, whether it is in front of your class, on stage for a large crowd, or an important business meeting.
1. Sit straight: An interview usually takes place while sitting down. Especially during longer interviews, the intention is to slide down your chair, or close your shoulders when leaning forward. Keep checking your posture, keep your spine straight, shoulders back, and lean slightly towards the interviewer to show your interest, while still displaying confidence.
2. Have a firm handshake: In an interview, the moment you are introducing yourself, your handshake will be judged. Are you confident and grab the interviewer with a firm (but not bone-breaking) handshake, or are you scared and give a tickling handshake?
1. Walk only when required, but don’t look like a totem pole. Walking up and down the stage has the same effect as fidgeting and shows your nervousness. Stand firm and still, and walk confidently when required, for example to make a point or question to someone in the audience. When standing still, we at Otermans Institute advise to move slightly when looking across the room to avoid keeping your feet still and legs stiff.
2. Watch your voice extra carefully: When presenting for a crowd, the sound in the room can change depending on where in the room members of your audience sit. This is especially true for larger rooms. This can bring echo’s when talking too loud, or can make it difficult for your audience to hear you at the back. When there is a microphone available, use this but make sure to keep it at a good distance from your mouth, so your voice is picked up in the right tone and your facial expressions are visible to your audience. Finally, do not let you handling the microphone reduce or stiffen your hand gestures, instead internalise it and use it as a prop.
You can practice your body language skills using these tips and exercises that have been curated to a home setting.
Self: Practice sitting with a straight spine on a chair for five minutes every day. When this becomes easy for you, slowly extend this minute by minute until you can do it for fifteen minutes without feeling uncomfortable.
Practice speaking with yourself through a mirror holding eye contact for up to 3-minutes. Once perfected, add in at least 5 hand gestures in your 3-minute speech to yourself.
Family: Ask someone in your family to give you feedback on a 5-minute speech you have prepared for them. Make them give a lot of feedback; even things they think are irrelevant. Compare those points to the headings of this lesson and identify your shortcomings.
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