It can feel weird at first, but smiling in public is so important. it is perhaps the most important non-verbal behaviour – without it, your speeches will be nowhere near as effective as they might have been.
There is plenty of research to back this up: smiling promotes trust in strangers, and looking at a smile lights up areas of the brain associated with pleasure. Smiling faces are easy to remember – and the thing you want most of all from your audience is to be remembered by them!
Smiling is good for you too, it has a relaxing effect, and releases endorphins which will help you feel more positive. Smiling actually uses fewer facial muscles than frowning, so it is even less hard work to give everyone a grin! When you first walk out on stage, give as many people in the audience as possible a smile – you will feel better for it.
All that said, the key with smiling is the same as with speaking: it must seem natural. The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously struggled with smiling in public, and many people shared his discomfort when he did so.
So, when appropriate, add some humour to your speech and allow yourself to smile, even laugh, it will relax you further. However, don’t fix your face in a rictus grin at every juncture, if you deliver a serious line whilst baring your teeth you risk looking quirky rather than charismatic.
Smiling always appears genuine if you do it when using positive words like “delighted” or “fantastic” and to help you feel natural, really think about what you are saying, don’t use a word like “delighted” if you are not. When you smile, think of something which gives you genuine pleasure – a favourite person or place, for example. Imagine something you’re grateful for to boost your mood, the added pleasure will show in your smile and importantly in your eyes and body language.
The old adage, smile and the world smiles with you, is very good advice for anyone who wants to make an impact with their public speaking.