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Nonverbal Delivery


          Delivery methods aren’t just limited to verbal, they have non-verbal (body language) aspects as well. More messages are received through non-verbal communication than through verbal words. And you need to be cognizant of the messages you are sending non-verbally, as they might counteract the verbal message you want to send. For example, a smile on your face while you are saying you really hate Brussels sprouts.


          This method involves the speaker’s movement around the stage and the gestures they make. Does the topic of the speech allow you to move around and interact with your audience? Could you move to add emphasis to your message? When you are using a presentation aid, how do you interact with it? In reality, there is also movement within the written aspects of a speech, but for now we are addressing visual delivery methods. You must think as you prepare where, how, and when you want to move. Even write movement cues into your speaking notes to help you.

Example: A lecturer moves from behind the podium into the aisleway of the audience to point to a presentation on a screen.

Example: Moving closer to your audience when you want to emphasize a major thought or point.

Example: Turning your body toward sections of the audience as you discuss each main point—using that throughout the speech to signal and reinforce your main ideas.

Eye Contact

          Just as the name suggests, eye contact is genuinely seeing and focusing on the audience. Eyes are known to be the “windows to the soul.” Effective speakers make eye contact with as many audience members as possible to establish a meaningful connection with them by drawing them in and speaking directly to them. However, avoid making eye contact with one audience member for an extended period—vary eye contact with the ENTIRE audience. One of the easier ways to help with eye contact is to break your audience down into segments of the room and find a friendly face to hold a “mini-conversation” with them. Do this in each section, varying the sections. Soon you will be speaking to all sides of the audience and making stronger connections with your audience. The better your eye contact, the more your audience feels involved and that you are speaking “to” or “with” them, instead of “at” them.


Example: The mayor panned the city council chambers and made eye contact with the petitioning party.

Example: Looking at every member of the committee as you discuss with them the new building plans you are proposing.

Example: Looking at and “talking with” each member in your class—valuing their connection to you and helping them to better listen to the message.

Personal Appearance


Related Reading:

Understanding Your Audience

          How you look and/or present yourself to the audience is vital to the perception of you as a speaker. The moment you stand up to go to the lectern is the first impression you are making. You can either give the perception: “I am strong, I have this, I am going to be good” OR you can be reticent, slovenly, and unconfident (Primacy-Recency theory in play again). Your audience will feed off you and how you come off to them may determine if they will listen to you, take you as a valid speaker/source, or not. Personal appearance is the clothing, attire, and personal hygiene you have as you present yourself to speak. Remember public speaking has a formality to it. If possible, you should present yourself at least in business casual or one step up from the attire of your audience. Also, dressing up makes you feel the importance of the occasion and feel better about yourself. The audience will see you are putting importance on the situation and valuing them. As with all aspects of speechmaking, these four factors for consideration might give your insight on what to wear, the audience, the occasion, the topic, and you yourself.

          Ideas for possible appropriate attire might include:

  • Blouse or button-up shirt

  • Khakis, dress pants, skirts (at knee level—not too short) or dark wash jeans

  • A sweater

  • Suit or jacket (when appropriate)

  • Minimal jewelry

          Some items may not be appropriate for presentations unless applicable to the topic:

  • T-shirts or athletic gear

  • Shorts

  • Sleeveless blouses and shirts

  • Large print or logo wear (takes the focus off you the speaker).

  • Hats or head coverings (religious or ceremonial acceptable)

  • Provocative clothing or low-cut blouses or tops

  • Torn jeans or pants

  • Large jewelry (that may be distracting), nothing flashy or dangling bracelets or earrings.

          You are the focus of the speech. If you give an audience something else to look at or focus on, then they may not pay attention to you or listen to your message.

Facial Expressions

         Facial expressions are universal. Happy, sad, angry, content, surprise, all emotions, show on our faces either intentionally or unintentionally. When you show emotions, you are delivering meaning without using words. Facial expressions are organic, coming from within, and should not be forced. You need to be aware of the messages your face may be saying as you speak—they could override your words and cause disharmony with the audience about your true intended meaning.

Example: In a persuasive speech, you are telling your audience the issue really makes you angry, yet you are smiling at someone in the audience because you recognize them. The rest of the audience doesn’t know of your connection; all they see is the smile. It is counteractive to your words.

Example: You are talking with a customer, and you don’t quite understand the directions for the product—your brow is furrowed, but you are saying, “yes, that makes sense.” This is in opposition to the message they see on your face.

Review Questions

1) Why is nonverbal delivery just as important as verbal delivery?

2)  Effective speakers do what with their eyes? What is a trick to make sure you are establishing a connection with all of the audience?

3) You are focus of your speech, what clothing items may not be appropriate for formal presentations?

4) Why are facial expressions a good method of nonverbal delivery?

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