Imagine you’re just starting your very important talk or presentation and, before you even open your mouth, you’re talking trash to the audience?
Your grim look, slumped posture, lack of visible energy, rapid breathing and stilted hand gestures are screaming out a negative vibe. You might just simply be nervous, but to the audience you appear to be unhappy, unconfident and on a real downer. Unbeknown to you, your body language is sending the audience an ugly message, and they don’t like what, metaphorically speaking, they are ‘hearing.’
No doubt you didn’t mean it to happen this way, but it has, and no matter how good your material is, it’s a very, very difficult task to go on and deliver a presentation that gets a good response.
After all, if you’re not looking good why should they trust you and what you have to say?
The Halo Effect and how it can work for or against you
The Halo Effect is a term that refers to people’s natural tendency to rapidly form an overall impression of someone. That impression then influences how they judge or rate that person on a whole range of characteristics or attributes.
Someone who initially appears confident, warm, engaging, energetic etc. is then seen to be ‘attractive’ and to have lot’s of positive characteristics, too. For instance, in a presentation, they would be seen to be credible, authoritative, trustworthy and even inspiring.
Then there’s the negative halo or, as some people call it, the horn effect. A presenter appearing to be unconfident, cold, distant and low on energy will be seen to lack credibility, authority, trust and the bad news goes on.
But the good news is, you can gain control over your body language, and make sure that you create a positive vibe right from the get-go.
Step 1: Get your vibe right
People will take in the vibe that you give out. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s true. So, what you need to do before your performance is to identify how you want the audience to feel in response to your message. Then, you have to feel that feeling within yourself. What I find effective is to play out in my mind occasions and things that I associate with that state of mind.
For instance, if I want the audience to feel warm, safe and comfortable with me, I will think about being with a good friend of mine, and how that makes me feel. I will replicate these feelings in the here and now. Some people call this channelling. Whatever, it does work.
When you are feeling the warm and friendly vibe, your body language will naturally fall into line. Your shoulders will relax; you’ll have a smile on your dial and your tone-of-voice will be more warm and friendly.
Similarly, if you want the audience to be excited by your proposal and endorse it, then you absolutely have to generate a vibe of excitement. Just saying words like “I am very excited by this proposal” is not enough to persuade an audience. You have to sound and look excited, too.
Step 2: Stand tall, shoulders back, head up & eyes engaged
Yes, I know, I sound just like your mother. But, mother knows best!
Let’s call this the ‘upright and proud’ body position. It’s a winner because we naturally associate strong and confident leaders with this body language. Most people will acknowledge that all the elements mentioned are important in creating a good impression with other people.
Yet, time after time I see people getting at least a few of these parts wrong and they aren’t even aware of their mistakes. They are, as we say at Groupe Amplify, unconsciously incompetent. They simply don’t know what they are doing wrong, and they pay the price of low engagement and poor persuasion as a result.
To make sure you get it right you have to rehearse your presentation, speech or talk including the ‘upright and proud’ body position. Yes, rehearse your body language as much as your words.
But wait, there’s more!
Step 3: Let your hands do more of the talking
Using your hands-and arms-expressively can do wonderful things to animate your body language and add extra energy and life to your words.
A good rule-of-thumb is that larger gestures, along with the hands being at least chest height, project greater confidence by the speaker in the message. And, the audience responds positively to this. What I typically see is that people tend to be self-conscious about using their hands and movement becomes awkward, small and confidence sapping.
One final tip is to avoid ‘palms down’ gestures as these can be interpreted as attempts to dominate and direct the audience; and we don’t want that do we? Use open hands, palms up and arms bent. Wonderful stuff!
If you want to see a maestro of talking hands then check out this TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli delivering a wonderful talk titled: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!
For your next presentation, speech or talk remember that you can dramatically improve your ability to engage, motivate and inspire your audience by getting your vibe right and projecting that feeling to the audience. Then, put into effect the ‘upright and proud’ body position that you would have been diligently practicing. And, last but not least by any means, is to let your hands do more of the talking.
Other Tips & Techniques
If you want to become a more engaging, more persuasive and more inspiring communicator then CLICK to explore the following:
Skills Development Workshops
Over to you!
Neil K Ross