How to Make Appropriate Facial Expressions in Innovative Presentations

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

Facial expressions, in relation to innovative presentations, include movements of your eyes, mouth, eyebrows, forehead, chin, and other parts in any combination that can add meaning to the spoken word. Facial expressions are usually an accurate barometer of how a person is feeling.

Smiles, grins, smirks, frowns, grimaces, winks, and raised eyebrows are just a few of the more than one hundred subtle facial expressions that project the attitude and emotional state of a person. By looking at your face, people can tell, for example, if you are:

  • Alert

  • Apprehensive

  • Confident

  • Convinced

  • Doubtful

  • Elated

  • Fearful

  • Frustrated

  • Happy

  • Puzzled

  • Relaxed

  • Surprised

  • Tired

  • Worried

As your speaking ability improves, you can tailor your facial expressions to match and reinforce your spoken words.

Always be aware of how your face communicates. Although it’s difficult to control spontaneous facial reactions and hide your feelings, try not to display an unintended negative feeling.

Political and motivational speakers make their faces reflect what they’re saying, whether they’re telling an amusing anecdote, getting to the sad part of a story, or conveying righteous indignation about some topic. The best facial expression you can use for most business presentations is a smile.

As you begin your talk, and periodically throughout it, use a warm, open, and sincere full smile (showing your teeth) to cement a bond with your audience and show that you’re relaxed and enjoy being before them.

In some cultures, particularly Asian, body postures and facial expressions have different interpretations than in North America. If you present to an international audience at home or abroad, do a little homework before your scheduled talk to make sure your presentation is respectful and not inadvertently and unintentionally offensive.