Body language counts

Body language counts

Body language counts. That was one particular message that I got out of a class about the art of communication, given by Daniel Perrin and it got me thinking further. For those of you, that are unfamiliar with Daniel, he is a highly regarded linguist from Berne, Switzerland with an impressive career path and the incredible positive ability to make a difference for his students. You might want to visit not only his portrait at the ZHAW but also his personal website.

Body language counts. No matter, what topic you are talking about and no matter who your audience is. As long as they can perceive you with their eyes as well as with their ears, the impact of body language that you are using is very high, maybe crucial to how your message is received. Considering the impact pyramid, there is an above 60% relevance of your nonverbal communication to how your message is understood. Most of that is in fact body language. Only 30% is about what the listener heard (paraverbal communication) and about less than 10% is the actual content of your communication (verbal). Although there might not be scientific proof for the figures out of the impact pyramid, it gives us a good enough idea about the importance of body language. Within that pyramid triangle of Charisma, Competence and Credibility, you might give your message a spin into the right direction when using your body language. Daniel put it that way:

Your body is not a tool, to take your head from conference to conference.

And that is true for conferences, business meetings and family gatherings. Whenever you want to say something that has any impact on your audience, it helps making your point if your body supports the message your coming out of your mouth. Therefore, a few hints that I came across lately you might also want to consider, next time you are giving a speech:

  1. It is ok to move on stage: Go a few steps in one direction, make your point there. Then move a few steps in the other direction and make an opposing point there. Or move towards your whiteboard or presentation device and then use it. Whenever you move, do it with purpose.
  2. Use your hands: Open your palms, take your hands up waist high and turn your palms slightly towards your audience. That is not only suggesting an open mind of yours, it is also helping you to be open. If you are very uncomfortable, lay your hands palms upside into each other in front of your belly at the start. At some point, probably seconds after your start you will use your hands for gestures that make sense. If you loose confidence in the middle of your speak, get your hands back into that resting position for a while, it will help you to start over.
  3. Avoid the tortoise neck posture: When working a lot in a sitting position in front of a computer, you might have acquired the tortoise or chicken neck posture. This is having your head leaning forward in relative position to your shoulders. The medical longterm issues you might get from that aside – it gives you a strange appearance when giving a speech. Take your head back and get yourself a tall posture. Maybe it helps, if you imagine being pulled up a little by a string attached to your top head. If you have trouble imagine that with this text only, check out that video from Paula Moore.
  4. Eye contact: Try to make eye contact with your audience. Not with everybody, but with a reasonable sample. That will help you to connect and read the audiences reaction to your presentation and maybe even adjust it according to your just in time findings.

By the way, if you have to give your speech over phone or any sort of voice conference tool, where your audience is not actually able looking at you – body language still is as important as if they would do. In that case, body language is helping you to maintain the right state of mind. Your listeners will hear the difference, if you are sitting in your pyjama pants on your sofa or if you are standing upright, maybe even having a smile on your face while talking.

I am convinced, that keeping these few things in mind will improve your appearance on stage, the next time you give a speech. Remember: Body language counts.

Image source: Wikipedia, Ekta Parishad
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