I presented a new business concept to a group of investors last week. I’ve never been very nervous when speaking in public, but just because I’m comfortable doesn’t mean I’m perfect when speaking. In fact, it probably means my imperfections are more noticeable than anyone else’s.
I took extra care to watch my body language. Body language accounts for the majority of your communication – not your words. One thing I paid especially close attention to was how much my lower body moved.
What does this have to do with blogging? Stick with me for a bit.
I see speakers move, and it isn’t a bad thing. In fact anytime someone stands still I tend to doze off. Think of traditional preachers camping out in pulpits and reading from large books. See, I almost fell off just now.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt the pain of a speaker giving a presentation while standing very still. Before we go on, one thing: Why are you raising your hand? You’re alone in front of your computer, put that down before someone sees you.
What I would like to talk about is healthy motion. Like many things, motion when speaking in front of people is a case of balancing extremes. No motion is boring, and too much movement gives off a nervous vibe. Check out this quote from Lin Sexton in a recent column for Worship Leader Magazine:
For novice performers, it’s the feet that often reveal their insecurity and discomfort. They may sound convincing and may even appear in character from their torso up, but nervous feet expose a lack of craft and control.
So confidence is seen in meaningful movement. Walk with confidence, walk calmly, and walk with purpose.
Make Your Stance Meaningful
When not moving, your stance says a lot about you. For instance a wide stance is considered masculine and confident. A narrow stance, with feet together, is very feminine or meek. Picture a police officer, hulking over passing pedestrians in a nearly awkwardly wide stance. He’s doing that to appear in control (whether he feels that way or not). But then consider that anytime someone is portrayed as either a child or someone equally helpless, this is done with feet tightly together (and usually shoulders slightly shrugged).
Again, balance is important. Personally, I want to be seen as confident. But I don’t want to be as overbearing as a cop.
Watch Your Feet While Blogging
Ah, now to the application portion of the course. When I say to watch your feet while blogging, I mean just that.
Well, not literally:
- Walk with confidence. Online. Find your niche and take command of it. Live it and breath it, and do so unapologetically. As mentioned in the past, being a blogging authority starts with considering yourself one. In the same way no one will respect you when you speak in public unless you look the part, your presence online won’t hold water unless you carry yourself confidently.
- Walk with purpose. Give your readers a reason to read. This only applies to those who want to generate a following. If your goal is to keep a blogging diary, then by all means give it your all. There’s definitely something to say for personal blogging. However, if you want a crowd to read your writing, be sure you’re writing something worth reading. And, as much as you can, cut out the fat. Don’t distract your reader so much that they miss the point of your message.
- Be sure to walk. It’s okay to walk. There needs to be a bit of variety and play in everything you do, whether it’s presenting to an audience or writing to them. For example, look over the words I’ve written above. I’ve made a point to be more playful than usual. Can you tell? How did it change your reading experience? If you can keep the balance, feel free to have some fun with your audience. Don’t be the boring preacher.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how my presentation went: very well. I think I kept an acceptable amount of movement, and (hopefully) appeared confident in just the right way. One note I have for myself: always have water on hand. For me it can make or break any presentation. For bloggers that probably equates to Red Bull or Diet Coke. Whatever keeps you going, right?
Reader Comments (28)
Excellent post and pointers. You made me laugh, think and even made an impact on my own blogging method.
Ryan Imel says
Thanks Hyder. I’ve been experimenting, trying to be more playful here and there in my posts. I’m glad you liked it.
Michael A. Stelzner says
One trick that I use when speaking–especially when people seem to be distracted–is to place my hands in the air (away from my body) and bring them together.
What this does is capture eyes and bring them to me. It can be done very subtly so people have no idea what is happening.
In the same way, there are similar things you can do as a blogger to draw the focus of your readers (such as asking them questions).
Thomas C. Sullivan says
Interesting. There’s another corollary in football. Expert commentators will often focus on a quarterback’s feet. Struggling QBs often are often either nervous in the pocket (not wanting to get hit) and you can see it in their jittery feet, or have bad technique and don’t set their feet properly before they throw. They are not in command and the feet are the giveaway.
Steven Bradley says
Ryan the playfulness worked well. It brought a smile to my face and helped emphasize your points, which of course were good.
Al Kalar says
I still can’t get our pastor to let go of the pulpit. Behind it his feet are “dancing”, but he won’t leave the comfort of his wood security blanket. He’s dynamic otherwise. You hit me right in the funny bone.
Most of what you said applies to novelists as well, which is why a good novelist CAN be a good copy writer (not a guarantee).
Also, if you have fun with your writing and can communicate that, your audience will have fun reading it. However, use discretion, one person’s joke is another’s insult (especially if you get political).
Brian Wechsler says
As someone who has done quite a bit of speaking (17 years as a pastor and 7 years as Diretor of Village Missions) and now entering the world of blogging (http://www.village-missions.org/about/from-the-director/), I appreciated your comments. I guess you’re saying we’ve got to “walk the talk.”
Alia Curtis says
Just for the record, Copyblogger is my bible. Thanks Ryan. It is easy to feel safely hidden behind a computer screen, but the reality is that as a writer, you are exposed more than in real space (so to speak).
In Cyber-land there is no body language to interpret what you really mean, or what you might have meant. You have to be understood at first glance and there is no second chance.
Your words of wisdom, Ryan should be read by everyone who writes (including bloggers)
Mike Pedersen Golf says
Fortunately for most of us, we are inside our four little walls and don’t have to go out much 🙂
Timothy Colman says
Public speaking requires practice. A good resource for folks in Copyblogger land is Toastmasters. http://www.toastmasters.org/
I think the story you wrote would be even better if you imbedded links to groups like Toastmasters —
Speaking of speaking in public — butterflies are free– they make you more interesting as a speaker. Body language, jittery feet all can be forgiven if you project intelligence and passion while in motion.
Another great resource for speaking is William Safire’s collection of greatest speeches — “Lend Me Your Ear” http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=William%20Safire&index=books&page=1
PS: My two cents: Skip the self congratulatory reflections on how your presentation went.
Corinne Edwards says
Big fan of Copyblogger here!
Liked this post a lot.
I have done a lot of speaking and I have always concentrated on one person at a time in the audience for eye contact.
I think it is the same with blogging.
Who are you talking to? Maintain eye contact!
Your article is very true but I agree with Timothy Colman. The most important thing is to show the passion about the subject. I think that even more important than body language is your tone of voice.
Monotonuous voice is even worse than a lecturer standing still.
I have been teaching math for 20 years and math has been my passion since I was 15. I show it to my students and actually have had success in turning some math haters’ heads.
How to implement this in blogging? That’s harder. Maybe pictures, occasional capital letters or colours. These tools are however very hard to handle but that goes for passion also.
Fred Schenk says
Another note on the feet/movement: don’t step front and back just to be moving. I’ve seen too many people presenting like this. Step foreward, stand still, step back, stand still, etcetera. It is very “annoying”/distracting and gives the same nervouseness (or more) as standing still.
Liked the post though so I’ll be reading more from you. Thanks to ‘succesfromthenest’ for sending me here 🙂
With kind regards,
Alia Curtis says
I was just here a couple of days ago. This is such an interesting forum, beautiful, positive attitudes. Leena’s comment brings me back.
A blogger has to apply what one would call “public speaking” techniques to his/her blog and the way to do that is to apply “writing” techniques. Using those skills, a writer sets the tone, atmosphere, introduces character and establishes credibility (same as the speaker).
The skilled blogger achieves this by first writing error free copy, and then by bringing needed information to the table. He/she shows enthusiasm, anger, love, etc. by the verbs and adjectives, and syntax that he/she uses.
Words are the writer’s body language, eye contact, hand gestures and expression of passion. When was the last time you read something that compelled you to respond? …hmmm…perhaps… “Are You Blogging With Confident Feet?” For fun, read it again and see if you notice the eye contact, confidence, purpose, personality and versatility. I sure did.
O’miGod, I love being a writer. 🙂 http://www.aliaedits.com
Mike Vasquez says
I think bloggers should read this post. It’s very true, even if you have the theoretical mind to preach, you must know how to drive your audience from and entice them to read the article from start to end. The basic steps? I guess I read them all above.
Brian I see your rhythm and following some of your suggestions is what I am doing. Lets see if it works. I like your content much more than Problogger. I suppose content is relevant then ad placement after.
Adam Snider says
Good post, Ryan. I like that you “practice what you preach” in this article. The playful nature definitely adds something to the whole thing. Definitely something worth considering for my own writing (along with the other tips mentioned here).
Great post! I consider myself a pretty good public speaker but there was lots to learn from this one.
I wanted to key on one point you made which was about blogging with confident feet and commanding your niche. Do you have any advice for those of us still looking for one? When I started my blog it centered around reviewing things – music, movies, websites and video games. As time has gone on, I have found myself writing more about social networks more and everything else I originally started my blog for, less.
I have the unapologetic thing down (very strong opinions) but I wonder about the niche part 😛
Wow, what incredible luck. My knowledge of blogging was zero when starting over 1 year ago. Transferred the success from my public speaking to my writing and it seemed to work so far.
But you have explained to me one of the things that fall in the category “You don’t know what you don’t know”.
Now what else is there to know?
Thanks for this thought-provoking perspective on writing. I never would have thought of correlating body language to writing. But you’re right, 90% of communication is non-verbal, and how you say something is every bit as important as what you say.
To William above, there are millions of websites on every imaginable subject. If you want people to visit yours more than once than you need to provide interesting, specialized content. Focusing on a niche that you’re knowledgeable in is critical.
Thanks for the great tips. I had never considered my feet an integral part of presentations, and I appreciate the insight.
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