There are five key elements that can make or break your attempt at successful nonverbal communication in business:
Eye contact Gestures Movement Posture, and Written communication
Let's examine each nonverbal element in turn to see how we can maximise your potential to communicate effectively...
Eye contact ~~~~~~~~~~~ Good eye contact helps your audience develop trust in you, thereby helping you and your message appear credible. Poor eye contact does exactly opposite.
So what IS 'good' eye contact?
People rely on visual clues to help them decide on whether to attend to a message or not. If they find that someone isn't 'looking' at them when they are being spoken to, they feel uneasy.
So it is a wise business communicator that makes a point of attempting to engage every member of audience by looking at them.
Now, this is of course easy if audience is just a handful of people, but in an auditorium it can be a much harder task. So balance your time between these three areas:
slowly scanning entire audience,
focusing on particular areas of your audience (perhaps looking at wall between two heads if you are still intimidated by public speaking), and
looking at individual members of audience for about five seconds per person.
Looking at individual members of a large group can be 'tricky' to get right at first.
Equally, it can be a fine balancing act if your audience comprises of just one or two members -- spend too much time looking them in eyes and they will feel intimidated, stared at, 'hunted down'.
So here's a useful tip: break your eye-to-eye contact down to four or five second chunks.
That is, look at other person in blocks that last four to five seconds, then look away. That way they won't feel intimidated.
Practice this timing yourself, away from others. Just look at a spot on wall, count to five, then look away. With practice you will be able to develop a 'feel' for how long you have been looking into your audience member's eyes and intuitively know when to look away and focus on another person or object.
Gestures ~~~~~~~~ Most of us, when talking with our friends, use our hands and face to help us describe an event or object - powerful nonverbal aids.
We wave our arms about, turn our hands this way and that, roll our eyes, raise our eyebrows, and smile or frown.
Yet many of us also, when presenting to others in a more formal setting, 'clam up'.
Our audience of friends is no different from our business audience — they all rely on our face and hands (and sometimes legs, feet and other parts of us!) to 'see' bigger, fuller picture.
It is totally understandable that our nervousness can cause us to 'freeze up', but is is in our and our communication's best interests if we manage that nervousness, manage our fear of public speaking, and use our body to help emphasise our point.
I found that by joining a local Toastmasters International club I was rapidly able to learn how to 'free up my body' when presenting to others.
Movement ~~~~~~~~ Ever watch great presenters in action — men and women who are alone on stage yet make us laugh, cry and be swept along by their words and enthusiasm?
Watch them carefully and you'll note that they don't stand rigidly in one spot. No, they bounce and run and stroll and glide all around stage.
Why do they do that?
Because they know that we human beings, men in particular, are drawn to movement.
As part of man's genetic heritage we are programmed to pay attention to movement. We instantly notice it, whether we want to or not, assessing movement for any hint of a threat to us.
This, of course, helps explain why many men are drawn to TV and seem transfixed by it. It also helps explain why men in particular are almost 'glued' to TV when there is any sport on. All that movement!
But to get back to stage and you on it... ensure that any movement you make is meaningful and not just nervous fidgetting, like rocking back and forth on your heels or moving two steps forward and back, or side to side.
This is 'nervous movement' and your nervousness will transmit itself to your audience, significantly diluting potency of your communication and message.
So move about stage when you can — not just to keep men in audience happy, but to help emphasise your message!
Posture ~~~~~~~ There are two kinds of 'posture' and it is wise communicator that manages and utilizes both.
** Posture 1 The first type of 'posture' is one we think of intuitively-the straight back versues slumped shoulders; feet-apart confident stance verses feet together, hand- wringing of nervous; head up and smiling versus head down and frowing.