Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tips: Be Powerful with Body Language

(Editor's note: I had to miss this dynamic presentation about women speakers and body language, but colleague Debbie Friez -- an officer of Washington Women in Public Relations, the event convener, and vice president at BurrellesLuce -- sent in this guest post about the event, emphasizing tips Eloquent Woman readers can use.)

Body language expert, Janine Driver, aka “The Lyin’ Tamer”, is calling 2009 “The Year of the Woman”, and she has made it her goal to help women be aware of their body language. Speaking at the February 24 Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) professional development session, Janine made us all aware of our own body language and provided insights into projecting ourselves more positively. Here are some of the great tips you can use for your next presentation, media interview or just everyday life:

  1. Keep your hands at your side, not clasped, to show power.
  2. Never hold a large sheet of paper when presenting. You should always use small note cards (if you need them), and hold them at your side, if possible.
  3. Don’t create a wall with your feet or hands. You should “open-up” your body.
  4. “Steepling” (creating a steeple with your fingers in front of your stomach) is a great power gesture. President Obama uses an open steeple gesture. Hillary Clinton has also been seen using it.
  5. Women tend to have a small stance (six inches or closer). Having a wide stance shows power. Cindy Crawford is a great example of a woman with a wide stance.
  6. One hand on your hip conveys attitude, whereas two hands on your hips projects control.
  7. When you shake someone’s hand, the hands should meet side to side. If the other person gives you the palm-down shake, you should bring your other hand over and lay it over theirs.
  8. Point your belly button at a person when you shake their hand to show openness.
  9. The more times you change locations or do different things during a meeting, the more the other person will feel like they know you.
  10. Never hide your thumbs in your pockets, it is not powerful.
  11. The last person through a door is usually the most powerful.
Driver noted that, as women, we need to work extra hard on projecting power, because these gestures are usually thought of as being manly.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Debbie! (and Denise). I wanted to go and had strep throat. These are interesting tips; I would have never guessed these.

I always wonder about how to present "powerful" without coming across as "manly" or even "bitchy." I'd like to look confident but still retain my femininity.

In terms of body language, I would also love to know more about eye contact and what it communicates. Did she talk about that at all? Eye contact is not super-comfortable for me, but I'm afraid it makes me look evasive or dishonest (when I'm not at all). I often wonder how much eye contact is passable, professionally.

robinkaren said...

I, too, hope to read what, if anything, she said about eye contact.

Cultural sensitivity can transform these tips a nuanced strategy. For example, Native Americans consider direct eye contact, particularly with an elder, a sign of disrespect. (one unevaluated source:

Still, such tips are like the other Man Knowledge that's kept under wraps (e.g., righty-tighty, lefty-loosey). The world becomes easier to navigate, when such tips are shared.