Expert Advice

What Is Your Body Saying That Your Words Aren’t?

Dad giving speech

Your Professional Stance

If you work in a professional setting, you are likely asked to present from time to time and being in front of a room (or even when reading a story to your child), your body language speaks before your actual voice makes an impact.  I’m sure you’ve watched someone who was nervous or lacked confidence and empathized with them.  Perhaps you’ve even had your child react when you are tense or stressed.  Our body language is often louder than our voice.

The Importance of Body Language

The importance of body language and communication are often ignored. When people prepare for presentations, they usually spend 80% of their time on content and only 20% on delivery. However Researcher Albert Mehrabian found that 55% of what an audience absorbs comes directly from the presenters body language with another 38% coming from their tone of voice, leaving only 7% that is received from the actual words used.  This means that your language is important, but only when delivered and performed impactfully.  

The World’s a Stage

Shakespeare was right when he wrote that “all the world’s a stage”. From the teacher who greets you with a smile when you drop your child off at school to the efficient receptionist at the doctor’s office who gets you checked in; to how YOU appear when you are presenting, everything is theatre. And everyone, including you, is performing!  Your actions and mannerisms change the way people perceive you and your message and knowing how to perform effectively is essential for your success.

The next time you meet someone for the first time, attend a meeting, or have a discussion with a friend, ask yourself, ‘How do I want to position myself as a performer? How do I want to be perceived?’

Creating Your Presentation Status

Effective communicators check in with themselves to see how they are using their voice and their body to create what I call their presentation status. Your status is indicated by your body language. 

If you think of your presentation status on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is low and 10 is high, 

  • Low status would be sitting on the floor in a downtrodden position, resisting eye contact and completely closed off to any kind of communication. 
  • High status would be the exact opposite – you are standing upright and confident with your chin raised, open to discourse and fully engaged with your audience, whether that’s a single person or a large group. 

The next time you’re getting ready to speak publicly, stand in front of a mirror and think about what kind of status you want to portray. You may not want to be seen as a 10, it might make you unapproachable. Perhaps a 7-8 might be the right place for you, open, confident without being stiff, so you can connect better with your audience and have a meaningful, open conversation. 

That’s the power of status – you can adapt it to your circumstances, your message, and your audience.

WATCH OUT:  

Your state of mind informs your status – so if you are feeling frustrated, or disappointed, or angry, this will reflect itself in how you are holding your body. People carry their experiences of the day in their body, if you had a bad experience before you present, you have to shake off that state of mind and “reset” your status, so that your next performance won’t be affected by whatever else is going on in your life. Professional actors are experts at separating their status from their mood, and it’s a lesson worth learning.

Using your Voice to Engage

Your voice is a powerful tool: your volume, speed, tempo, and tone convey your status and your message. It is the way we engage our audience with our content so that they understand the meaning we want them to take away. By using pauses, pace, volume, tone, we are able to emphasize a point or move the audience to a new message.  

Speaking too quickly, too quietly, or muttering all degrade your status, and make it more difficult for your audience to connect with you.  Whereas using a clear voice that has volume and a well-paced cadence can elevate your status, and engage your audience.

Presenting is a Gift

I believe that being given the opportunity to present, to speak in front of any audience, is a gift. It’s an opportunity for you to share your insights and your knowledge – to teach, to inspire, and to lead. It’s a gift to your audience, and to you, and it’s worth taking the time to do it well. Prepare what you want to say, and how you want to say it.

If you are interested in learning more about body language and getting better at presenting, we have a developed a program you might be interested in.  Learn more about it by clicking here – Present With Confidence Mini Program.

Written by Andrea Sampson

Invoking well defined listening skills and combining these with her skills in insight identification and human behaviour, Andrea helps her clients craft stories from facts and deliver talks that are compelling and engaging. As the CEO and Founder of Talk Boutique, Andrea guides and trains her team of coaches and provides her expertise as an Executive Coach to senior leaders and professional speakers worldwide. Having spent the first 20+ years of her career as a senior leader in marketing and advertising, Andrea was often required to give talks and presentations that deeply connected with her audience. Using this expertise combined with her experience on TED events and as a TED trained Speakers Coach, with a special skill in understanding technical and science-based disciplines, Andrea helps her clients make their work accessible while maintaining its credibility and uniqueness. As part of the team to bring Singularity University to Canada, Andrea has worked with and trained Singularity University faculty worldwide. She also holds a TEDx license (TEDxCorktown) and participated in the Global TED initiative COUNTDOWN in 2020.