PointersI know better, but I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to placing too much emphasis on content – the actual words and phrases – when preparing for a presentation. Communicating, as you might know anecdotally, is as much about your body language and facial expressions as it is about your words.
Here are some interesting facts about the importance of non-verbal communication:

  • Human communication is 20% verbal and 80% non-verbal. This means if you’re saying something but your body language says the opposite, you’re not likely to get your message across.
  • According to researchers, our bodies express emotion better than our faces.
  • The average person actually only speaks words for a total of 10-11 minutes a day. And the average sentence takes 2.5 seconds to say.
  • We make and recognize about 25,000 facial expressions a day.
  • Pointing is one of the most offensive gestures pretty much around the globe.
  • Hand-steepling is the most high-confidence hand gesture. This involves touching the spread fingertips of both hands in a gesture similar to praying hands, but the fingers are not interlocked and the palms may not be touching.
  • Power poses – e.g. standing up, sitting with arms spread out on the on the chairs around you, “Wonder Woman” stance (feet planted; hands on hips) – make speakers feel more powerful as they actually change testosterone and cortisol levels in the body.

Be body-aware and body-smart. Think about your face, your body and your posture. Identify what your “job” is – your communications task for each public speaking occasion – and practice what that might look and sound like as part of your preparation. In other words, what does persuasion look and sound like; what does reassurance look and sound like; what does motivation look and sound like? Practice with your words, but also make sure it looks and sounds like you!

Beth Levine