Filling the Space

One of the misconceptions people have about public speaking is that they think it’s all about speaking. Certainly the words you speak are important, and try making a presentation without words…but research, especially in the last 10 years indicates that audiences rely on body language for content much more than words.


One of my clients lost a pitch he should have won because he crossed his arms while the prospect was explaining something to him.  The prospect interpreted that move as my client being judgmental.

One of the most powerful body language techniques came out of research from Stanford University.  I call the concept Filling the Space. It’s a simple concept that say the more I fill your visual frame…within limits…the more persuasive I am to you and the more confident I appear.  The obvious way for me to fill your visual frame is to get closer to you.  Next time you see people making presentations, note how much less impactful the speaker who is farther away appears. 

But, there are other ways to fill the space in addition to proximity. I can fill the space with hand and arm gestures. Within limits. I don’t want arm gestures that are so exaggerated that I look like I’m trying to land a plane. And, research tells us that the audience is far more likely to understand what you are saying if you use hand gestures while speaking. So, don’t keep your hands at your side. Keep them in front and active.

Another way to fill the space is with slight steps in one direction or the other. Not pacing but a step or two in this way or that.

I can also fill the space by making better eye contact. The more I look at you, the more you look back, so that starts to control your visual frame.

I also can fill the space with my volume. If I speak in a bigger voice…not shouting…that fills the space, as well.

If you start to use some of these techniques you’ll become an infinitely more powerful speaker immediately.  Play with them slowly and work them into your repertoire.  You’ll find that filling the space is a powerful presentation tool.


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