The Importance of Body Language
I have a visual media background. We always say that the story (content) is king. If you do not have a good story, great visuals, audio, and color will not fix it. I am sure you can all recall a movie portraying amazing cinematography, but was not worth your time because there was no compelling story.
When it comes to public speaking, which is more important: words or body language? Initially, I thought that one’s words, or content, is more important. A Professor Emeritus of Psychology from UCLA, Albert Mehrabian, offers a different perspective. Mehrabian devised the 7%-38%-55% rule. Regarding verbal and nonverbal messages, this rule ranks the importance of one’s words (7%), one’s tone or vocal expression (38%), and one’s body language (55%). I understood that verbal and non-verbal communication need to be congruent, but the overwhelming importance of body language was an eye opener as I continued researching.
I am one of those people that typically thinks of a topic to speak on at the last minute. I write my speech outline at 2 a.m., to give at 7 a.m. I usually run through the speech a handful of times in order to work on speech timing. However, I do not work on body language. Consistently, I receive feedback that I often clasp my hands (don’t everyone write this on my next speech evaluation ). The effort of remembering my speech outline takes up a significant amount of my brain power during the speech delivery. Therefore, I need to spend more time practicing my body language beforehand so that body language is portrayed more naturally.
Body language during a speech can be broken down into two categories: that which gives the speaker confidence, and that which gives the audience confidence in the speaker. I recommend beginning with the first category. Consider adopting the power poses Amie Kegler introduced in one of her previous speeches. This could include taking some deep breaths, smiling big, planting your feet wide, or just making the whole stage yours.
This month, I challenge all of us to observe our body language when we speak. From the initial diagnosis, you can reflect on what you would like to change and practice. Identifying your most confident power pose will also allow you to make strides as a public speaker!
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