“See that man over there? That’s Eddy. He’s the one with the shifty eyes, furrowed brow, stooped shoulders and tiny voice.”
Based upon my description of Eddy’s non-verbal behavior, you are inclined to distrust him. Even though you know you shouldn’t prejudge anyone, right now your brain is sending you warning signals about Eddy.
Humans are programmed to respond at the deepest level to the non-verbal cues of others.
And yes, this remains true for those of us with the intellectual understanding that “non-verbals” never tell the whole story.
Here’s the bottom line: non-verbal communication speaks louder than words. Period.
Posture, eye contract, gestures, and sounds will elicit an emotional response in your audience. Those emotions leave a lasting impression about who you really are.
The implications for a speaker are clear – you need to be mindful of your non-verbal signals in order to make the “right” impression. (Let’s define “right” as the impression you want to make.)
At this point you may be thinking – Geez, I’m not as bad as Eddy! Still, maybe you’ve been told that you could use more “presence” in front of the room. How is that done?
To help with this challenge, I advise my clients to think like an actor.
Imagine you are being asked to play the part of a confident and poised
How would you stand? Straight spine, shoulders back.
Facial expressions? Open, calm, curious, positive (smiling eyes – maybe a full smile).
Eye contact? Focused eye contact – think mini-conversations with different member of the audience. Avoid looking down or away for too long.
Voice? Rich, lower tones supported by deep breaths – loud enough for people to hear.
Use your imagination. Act “as if” you are confident and poised and allow those attributes to influence your body language. If you need more help, work with a coach who can guide you.
Bonus: As you ACT more confident and poised you will begin to FEEL that way. Cool, right?
P.S. – For an overview of the importance and impact of non-verbal communication, I recommend Nick Morgan’s gem of a book Power Cues (Published: May 13, 2014 Harvard Business Review Press).