Non-Verbal Communication Skills: Understanding your body language and other physical cues is very important when you are presenting material in front of an audience. Your non-verbal communication skills are just as important as your verbal skills. Combined they make up the complete communication package that you use when you are presenting your material.
Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication. Nonverbal communication cues you in to what is on another person’s mind, even more than voice or words can do.
One study at UCLA found that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive nonverbal signals through body language all the time.
Your words represent only 7% of the message that is received. Your body language represents 55%. But your body language must match the words used. If a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language governs.
Gestures are an important tool for a presenter. The challenge is to make gestures support the speaking, reinforcing ideas. Below are several basic rules for the use of gestures:
• Make most gestures above the waist. (Those below the waist suggest failure, defeat, and despair.)
• Hold your forearms parallel to the waist, with your elbows about 3 inches from the side.
• Make your hands part of your forearm, opening them, with your fingers slightly curved. (Limp hands may indicate a lack of leadership.)
• Use both hands to convey power.
• Gestures of direction, size, shape, description, feeling, and intensity are all effective when speaking.
The Signals You Send to Others:
Signals are movements used to communicate needs, desires, and feelings to others. They are a form of expressive communication. More than 75% of the signals you send to others are non-verbal. People who are excellent communicators are sensitive to the power of the emotions and thoughts communicated non-verbally through signals.
Types of Non-Verbal Signals:
Other than gestures already discussed, signals include:
• Eye contact
• Body movements
They all convey important information that isn't put into words. By paying closer attention to other people's nonverbal behaviors, you will improve your own ability to communicate nonverbally. Intervals of four to five seconds of eye contact are recommended. It is also important to use a tone of voice to reinforce the words in your presentation. For example, using an animated tone of voice emphasizes your enthusiasm for a participant’s contribution in a debrief session.
As a presenter, your words should match your non-verbal behaviors. If they do not, people will tend to pay less attention to what you said, and focus instead on your nonverbal signals.