Did anyone notice how uncomfortable Anne Hathaway looked while hosting the Academy Awards? Maybe it was nerves, or maybe it’s because her co-host was wooden. But whether she was anxious or not, her body language did little to help. If there was an Oscar for using T-Rex arms, she would have won the hardware. Take a look at her performance:
See how her lower arms, wrists and hands are often caught between her waist and shoulders? This is colorfully called T-Rex arms. Uncomfortable or novice presenters share these traits: A) they don’t know what to do with their hands, and B) they want to hide behind something for security. This results in T-Rex arms, when the arms and hands are used, or sort-of played with, in front of the torso in a manner that does not pertain to the presentation.
Anne clearly doesn’t know what to do with her hands. And when she does have a germane gesture, she goes way overboard–another sign of discomfort. Watch at 00:46, when she proclaims that it’s “Hollywood’s Biggest Night!” It looks like her arms finally release all the potential energy she built fiddling around her waist. Could you imagine Meryl Streep doing that with her arms? No. Not just because she’s more mature and reserved, but because she’s more comfortable and confident. T-Rex arms are a clear differentiator between confident and nervous presenters. Continue reading
I’m still figuring out what my own strengths and weaknesses are. If I look close enough, I’m reminded every day. If I’m in work mode and just trying to get things done, I may not smell the roses (or the corpse flowers) along the way. But I try to take an objective step back every once in a while to see how I’m doing. After all, this is my career, and nobody else is going to care about it as much as I do. I can’t rely on others telling me when I’m doing well or when I’m in need of a correction.
That said, I also have regular opportunities to coach new employees on things like building and delivering presentations, running meetings, and influencing others. There are two things I find myself saying more than anything:
- What are you selling?
- So what?
One of the surest signs of professional maturity is comfort presenting. Whether it’s a small group or an auditorium of strangers, most people are nervous-slash-afraid to get up front and speak on a topic. Any topic. Even one with which they’re intimately familiar. A 20-year expert can lost credibility if she stumbles and stammers through a product demo.
The opposite? A relative greenhorn can seem more experienced if she delivers a good presentation. While there’s no substitute for practice and a desire to improve, there are a few traits I’ve noticed in bad presenters that even a young professional can avoid. But if you really want to give a bad presentation, here’s how to do it: