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LaNella Hooper-Williams

Personal Branding Tips and Tools for An Authentically Empowered Career

What BODY LANGUAGE Are You Communicating?

November 19, 2020

We often spend hours laboring over what we are going to say or finetuning the words in our presentations. While planning and reviewing our content are always important, verbal communication isn’t the only thing that matters. The feelings and reactions your body conveys through facial expressions, gestures and body movements, vocal tone and volume are another form of language that is just as important as spoken words.

Body language is everyone’s second language. Research indicates that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. The eyes communicate more than any other part of your anatomy. Raised eyebrows, rolled eyes and a facial frown are all elements of body language.

What Body Language Are You Communicating?

A few years ago, I coached a leader who was preparing for a very important presentation to C-suite executives. It was clear he was nervous about the presentation, and I asked him to do a quick run through. He began the presentation with, “I’m excited to be here to present….” But he didn’t look excited at all. In fact, his face didn’t communicate an ounce of excitement and his hands were anchored in his pants pockets as he rocked back and forth from heel to toe. Needless to say, we had a lot of work to do.

I initially had him demonstrate his excitement by practicing smiling. We later focused on body language including hand gestures and natural movement techniques.

Most of the time we are unaware of our body language. For instance, while waiting for someone you are meeting with to discuss an important issue, you may unconsciously start tapping your foot or involuntarily shaking your leg. Or, once the meeting begins you may pick up on the person’s crossed arms or averted gaze. 

How can we adjust our own body language to appear more positive and engaging? Below are five tips to help you.

  1. Smile—Believe it or not, you increase endorphins and replace anxiety just by smiling. Smiling also exhibits confidence and enthusiasm. People interested in each other smile more and tend to engage in eye contact. Smiling can be an indication that the person welcomes you. Frowning—not so much!
  2. Maintain Good Eye Contact—Hold a person’s gaze for a few seconds, then move on to the next. A lifted head and looking someone directly in the eye are signs of confidence. However, don’t engage in an uncomfortable stare down. 
  3. Sit or Stand Tall—While it’s ok to be relaxed, be sure you are not slouching. Slumping your body or lowering your head shows insecurity. Stand with shoulders back and your arms unfolded and at your sides.
  4. Use Power Stances and Gestures— Practicing confident body language is another way to reduce presentation jitters. Hand gesturing can be good if it comes across naturally. However, windmilling arms is a sign of nervousness and is distracting. Never a good thing. Keep hands above your waist with palms facing towards audience. Bend your elbows and combine sustained with unsustained movements. Also, use your hands in combination with verbs. For instance, if you say, “xx was so big,” use hand gestures to emphasize the point.
  5. Avoid Fiddling –Avoid fiddling with your hair or touching your mouth or nose.  It’s as distracting as someone rattling change in their pocket.

From a personal branding perspective, being a good presenter can have a significant impact on your executive presence and career. Any person who wants to move up, should master these five tips and sharpen their overall communications skills.

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