Episode 102: Using Positive Body Language While Presenting

Businesswoman Making Presentation At Conference

Episode Transcript

Shawn: Intro: Hi I am Shawn Doyle- and across from me is the lovely and talented Racheal Doyle. I am the CEO of Shawn Doyle Training and Rachael is the COO. We train professionals how to win at work. Glad you could join us. In season one, we are going to be talking about Presentation skills. Today: Using Positive Language While Presenting

Shawn: ( Bad speaker story ) So I think lots of people underestimate the power of body language when presenting.

Rachael: Very true. A professor back in the 70’s at UCLA Dr. Albert Mehrabian developed a communication model, in which he demonstrated that only 7% of what we communicate consists of the literal content of the message. The use of one’s voice, such as tone, intonation and volume, take up 38% and as much as 55% of communication consists of body language.

Shawn: Yes, I am always been fascinated by that- when we see a presentation- we believe what we see- meaning the presenters body language. We see it in presidential candidates- its not what they say, or how they say it, it’s how they look when they say it. (talk about Kennedy Nixon debates- polls)

Rachael: It’s kind a shame in a way- someone might be brilliant but if they don’t have the packaging- then they wont get a chance.

Shawn: It’s true at work too. Every time you get up to present it’s an audition for leadership.

Rachael: So what can a presenter do to have more positive body language since it is so important?

Shawn: The first one is open body language vs. closed.

Rachael: Meaning?

Shawn: Think of your body as a stage and your arms and hands as a curtain. If the curtain is closed people think of that as a negative. Things like crossing your arms, hands locked behind your back. To connect with an audience you have to connect and in order to connect you have to be open.

Rachael: So describe the best position for arms and hands.

Shawn: Good question- arms and hands out and away from the body. Pull back the curtain! Also stand up straight and have good posture.

Rachael: This all makes sense- according to research 82% of how we take in the world around us is visual. What else can be done to make a positive impression?

Shawn: Gesture.

Rachael: This is question we get all the time- what kind of gestures?

Shawn: Great question. People in our presentation skills class always ask- what do I do with my hands? What do I do with my arms? Natural organic gestures- you are not an opera singer and not a Shakespearean actor. Use your gestures. If you were talking with someone in the hall way at work- you wouldn’’t use weird stilted gestures. So the key is be you- open hands open arms and broad gestures. Another idea is to focus on the content and the gestures will become natural.

Rachael: I think that makes a lot of sense. According to research by Holler and Beatie, they found that gestures increase the value of our message by 60%! The best, most charismatic speakers and influencers know the importance of using hand gestures.

Shawn: That is fascinating. That just proves gestures work. Another interesting piece of research- about speakers, by Vanessa Van Edwards… The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures during the 18 minute talk. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double!

Rachael: Wow. What else can we do to be more positive with body language?

Shawn: Smile.

Rachael: That is probably not what anyone would expect to hear in a training program for presentation/communication skills.

Shawn: We talk about in our training. (tell video smile story ) In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of several emotions: joy, anger, fear, and surprise. When the picture of someone smiling was presented, the researchers asked the subjects to frown. Instead, they found that the facial expressions went directly to imitation of what subjects saw . It took conscious effort to turn that smile upside-down. So if you’re smiling at someone, it’s likely they can’t help but smile back. If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to.

Rachael That makes sense to me. I notice when we smile at babies they almost always smile back. Playing the devil’s advocate- what if you are not a person who smiles a lot? Or what if it is a serious topic?

Shawn: If you are not a “smiler”- you should learn to be. It has a huge impact on a presentation. It also helps you to feel more confident. We know this from biological research. People who are happy smile. People who smile are happy. ( explain) If it is serious topic of course the smile has to be in context- we don’t want to announce a huge layoff while we are smiling. We see this with news reporters online and on TV. ( they know) If I am in a presentation as an audience member, I want you to look like you are happy to be there.

Rachael: So we are using positive gestures, we are smiling, so now what?

Shawn: I think we want to move around. (tell movement story) There are not any pro presenters who don’t move around. In the old days people were tied to a podium or lectern because that is where the microphone was- but that has all changed now. Moving has advantages 1) it’s more interesting to the audience 2) it helps generate energy and burn off nervous energy 3) variety.

Rachael: Have you seen the results in training programs?

Shawn: (tell training programs story). So what we see is that the physicality of the presenter also has an impact on the psychology of the presenter! It’s all linked.

Rachael: I mean it is all linked- the whole mind body connection.

Shawn: We also want to make sure we don’t move just to move.

Rachael: Meaning?

Shawn: Not just pacing around just to pace …The next thing to think about is move with a purpose. Don’t just pace. You can move 1) to make a transition 2) to make a different point 3) to illustrate a point . When you walk toward the audience and around them- it really gets their attention.

Rachael: I have seen that. It works really well. What else makes it easier to have a positive body language.

Shawn: Eye contact. the poet Dubartas said “ these lovely lamps these windows to the soul.” Why do you think that would matter?

Rachael: Well in America, we talk often about what it means if someone won’t look you in the eye- they aren’t telling the truth, or they lack confidence. I have seen that both positive and negative examples.

Shawn: I mean I think it is interesting that a 3 year old know this. (story) Dogs know this. (story) That is right- so I often teach that this is something you have to practice. Look strong and confident with eye contact. When presenting use scanning eye contact. (explain)

Rachael What does that mean exactly?

Shawn: It means look at different people in the audience (explain concept) make a connection with eye contact. It also gives you an idea of how things are going. You can read people. But don’t Hannibal Lector anyone.

Rachael: Lector?

Shawn: You know.. not just stare at one person- it creeps them out! (do Hannibal voice)

Rachael: Creeping people out is not the goal although that voice just did!

Shawn: Thanks!

Rachael: As someone who has given presentations for 30 years, what else is important to know?

Shawn: Besides gestures, movement, smiling and eye contact I think nodding is important- if someone asks a question and you nod as they are talking- using a “yes” nod- then they feel validated. Like you are nodding at me right now!

Rachael: Oh hmmm… I guess I am. That is funny.

Shawn: What advice do you have as someone who has seen so many presentations over the years?

Rachael: To me it’s important to look like you want to be there. I want to see a presenter who is excited passionate, interested- which makes them interesting. If you care I care- you know what I mean?

Shawn: Yes it back to what we talked about earlier. If a tremendous amount of communication is non verbal- then we need to know about and use positive body language to raise the bar of our presentation to the next level. We can manipulate how the audience feels about the presentation, about the message and about us. We have a short video that you can watch by going to wininingedge@work.com and take a look at that.

Rachael: You know I love quotes and here is a good one - “If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

-Gerald R. Ford

Shawn: Thanks for spending some time with us on our next program- How to project a strong presentation voice that rivets your audience. It should be riveting…

Rachael: I know that I will be tuning in. Oh that is right…. I will be co hosting!

Rachael and Shawn Doyle