A few words (and tips!) about non-verbal communication.

I bet you didn’t know that some experts say as much as 93 percent of communication is non-verbal!

Now you know!
Now you know!

I knew it was a lot. But until I researched this article, I didn’t know just how much! Another great reason why you better invest time practicing your presentation: you will be transmitting to your audience in many more ways than simply through the words you have written.

This illustration is so obvious it made me laugh...
This illustration is so obvious it made me laugh…

I’ve broken down the categories for you and provided a few thoughts on each:

Clothing and appearance.  Dress appropriately to the occasion. Understated and classic is a sure bet.  Do not wear something distracting unless it’s quite intentional.  Ladies, those large, dangly earrings probably don’t work (unless you’re here in Italy, then no one will notice).  Gentlemen, same thing for that tie with any kind of cartoon print.

Locomotion.  How do you fill the space? Are you pacing wildly back and forth? Coming out from behind the podium?  Your movements here will tell your audience a bit about your experience and confidence – therefore your credibility.

Posture.  You might think I’ll urge you to stand up tall and straight here. Sure. But you’re not a Sequoia. Also consider leaning in to your audience at important moments; shrugging your shoulders if there’s a confusing issue at hand;  Squatting down low to tell a secret.  Don’t act affected, but don’t be a stick either.

Gesture.  Here in Italy hand gesturing has been elevated to an art-form! But for everywhere else, it can be an important way to emphasize points too. Turn on the video camera and record you practicing your speech. Watch for the moments where you naturally gesture or could add one for emphasis.  Practice opening your arms smoothly and broadly. Don’t jerk those arms or fly them around aimlessly!

Facial expressions. I have seen so many business professionals lose opportunities because they were expressionless cigar-store Indians as they spoke.  If you are trying to motivate or persuade your audience, smile! If your quarterly earnings are less than projected, your face might show concern. Remember, your audience is made up of humans, not wooden mannequins. Don’t you be one.

For facial expressions, don't just focus on your mouth, also consider varying the shape of your eyes.
For facial expressions, don’t just focus on your mouth, also consider varying the shape of your eyes.

Eye contact.  Don’t simply scan the audience. Take moments to really focus.  I have clients practice eye-contact by looking at an “audience” of chairs in which I place large photos of professional looking people.  I ask the client to look directly at each “person” for four seconds.  Depending on my client, I sneak a photo of Marilyn Monroe or (young) Elvis into the back row.  When their eyes come across the famous faces, it’s incredible to see their eyes light up.  That’s connecting.

Touch.  During your presentation, you’re probably not near enough to touch anyone.  But if you do have audience interaction, be aware a friendly handshake or a light hand on a shoulder or elbow are perceived as friendly and caring.  Obviously touching is only appropriate when – appropriate!

Paralanguage.   This is the scientific term for what I call the “spice” of communication. These are my favorite:  pitch, pacing, volume, inflection, emphasis and tone.  Please, please! Play around with these.  Take one of your sentences and vary the pitch.  Start fast and slow down when you want to emphasize a point.  Try raising and then lowering your volume.  Emphasize a different word. Listen to how each of these subtleties dramatically changes your sentence.

Just like the right combination of spices in food – if you flavor your speech with a variety of non-verbal and paralanguage techniques, your presentation will be more delicious. Everyone remembers a great meal!



Copyright 2013 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


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