Presentation skills:- what you don't say!

08-01-12 Alison Parker 0 comment

Presentation skills are always difficult to master, they take practice. One tip is to always remember that the audience is your central focus; they are giving up valuable time so you can communicate important information. You may have a well-conceived idea of what you are verbally saying, but do you know what you are saying non-verbally? We all want an engaged audience, whether it is an audience of one or one hundred, so it is vital that you are quickly able to follow the non-verbal clues they give you and adapt your own body language to establish rapport and  engage them.

Micro-expressions, can you read them or do you need an emoticon?

One aspect that helps us to be better communicators is mastering the non-verbal clues that we are both giving and receiving. Non-verbal communication includes gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, posture, body movements, touch, space, environmental contexts, physiologic responses (e.g. reddening) and voice tone; inflection or pace . The ability to use these signs to help interpret the flow of a conversation can dramatically improve communication and understanding. When your non-verbal cues are aligned to your verbal message then communication is clearer, more open and also seen as more trustworthy- essential to building a strong business rapport. When you become aware and adept at controlling your own emotions you are able to focus on reading the signs in others. Look for inconsistencies between non-verbal and verbal communications and groupings of non-verbal clues which are all conveying the same overall message. Remember that there will be cultural and generational differences in non-verbal clues so it is difficult to interpret an isolated event and more accurate to look at a group of signals.

Practicing for example some cues that denote confidence seems like a good idea, using strong purposeful gestures, speaking slower with no more than a moderate voice and engaging eye contact with a smile. Even  if we master this, however, we might still not be in control of all of our body language. Observation of people helps, start looking around restaurants/ public spaces and interpreting relationships without hearing words. Chances are you will be able to identify defensive postures, lying, disengagement and aggressiveness as well as a myriad of other non-verbal pointers.

Eye contact is used to signal many different intentions and many of us will already know that looking up and to the left is done when recalling a memory and looking up and to the right denotes using your imagination (or possibly lying!). It is again important to establish the normal for each individual by asking base line questions and paying attention to the rest of the non-verbal clues.  Moving the feet for example ( check under the table ), over or under emphasis of voice as  well as keeping the limbs closer to the body would reinforce a sense someone is lying when appearing in a cluster of behavioural responses. Even the humble knee can give a lot away, watch where it is pointing to find out their subconscious desire, towards the door and away from your business transaction? Of course, it could just be comfort! When we recognise body language we are able to change ours to begin to dictate or steer events towards more successful conclusions. There are few people who do not respond to changes in body language, a smile from you will usually elicit one. Managing your emotions will help to shape/ manage your body language , so always pause and regroup when you are finding it difficult to keep your emotions in check otherwise you will quickly lose rapport with another.



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