Presentation body language: Smile

by Peter Watts

Droopy, the clinically depressed puppy with the crop of red hair, looks at us from the TV screen and in mogadon monotone, with eyes full of sadness, deadpans the phrase: “You know what folks, I’m very, very happy.”


It’s only funny because the message, the voice tone, and the facial expression are all hopelessly out of synch with each other. It’s also a valid observation about the way many public speakers address their audiences.


When presenting, our faces tend to fall into a stern, serious expression. The mouth forms a straight line, and stays that way! Because the expression on the lower half of the face has locked, it means the upper half of the face also becomes locked, robbing the eyes of expression. The voice meanwhile, becomes the same monotone we hear from Droopy.


This reaction is natural. There are so many other things for us to be thinking about that we forget to attend to our facial expression and the most important thing we can do with it; SMILE!


When we smile during a presentation, we communicate three points:

  • We are confident and comfortable in front of the audience
  • We are happy, welcoming, and grateful for the opportunity to speak
  • We know we are explaining something positive that will benefit those hearing us

As part of your preparation, be aware of where you have good news to give. On your notes, draw a smiley face beside each positive point, and then, as you refer to those notes during your presentation, let that smiley face remind you to emphasize the point by smiling!

It’s important that your smile is natural. Don’t just pause and bare your teeth! Try practicing your presentation in front of a mirror and let your expression follow the natural  upswings and highlights of your presentation.


Your public speaking will at once become more interesting, warmer, and natural.


  1. This afternoon I was tasked,unexpetedly, to give a presentation tomorrow on giving presentations. I am to focus on eye contact and smiles. I am not well experienced on presentations and although it wasn’t assigned as an inpromptu presentation, I was given only an evening to prepare. Your website has given me the info & the confidence I need to give my presentation tomorrow. I’m so grateful, thank you!

  2. Hi Jill

    Thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m delighted that the blog proved helpful. How did the presentation go? A huge success I hope. 🙂

    All best regards

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