There is no shortage of tips and articles on the topic of body language. However the abundance of nonverbal communication advice is actually a problem because if public speakers tried to present their message while utilizing all of the available body language tips, they would look more like marionette puppets responding to the tugs of many different strings, instead of real people acting authentically.
That is why I want to toss out most of the available body language advice, and present to you only 3 nonverbal communication tips.
Why did I pick these 3 body language tips? These 3 tips were selected because speakers who focus on these 3 tips are more likely to be perceived as warm and trustworthy.
I think we all intuitively know that leaders who are seen as warm are more effective than those who lead by only demonstrating their strength and competence, and credible scientific research finally confirms that intuitive insight.
The excerpt included below, from the Harvard Business Review article, Connect, Then Lead, touches on the reasons for prioritizing warmth instead of strength during your presentations and other forms of professional communication.
A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.
To make sure you are perceived as a warm leader, focus on these 3 body language tips:
1. Smile genuinely.
Every time you stand in front of an audience, make sure you have something “happy” to say. By that I mean you should plan to share at least one story or announcement that makes you truly happy. If your message is lacking that element of happiness, find a way to add a relevant happy moment to your presentation so that you have a reason to flash at least a few genuine smiles during your talk. The saddest topics in the world can have a silver lining moment, even if the happy moment is simply the speaker’s gratitude for the opportunity to share the message with the audience.
When you smile genuinely, you actually are seen as warm, as well as competent. Thus, smiling is a win-win for both warmth and credibility. A recent study at Penn State University found that when you smile, you don’t only appear to be more likable and courteous, but you actually appear to be more competent, according to the TED talk, The Hidden Power of Smiling, by Ron Gutman.
2. Nod while listening.
Many body language experts suggest nodding three times to demonstrate friendliness, and to keep the conversation flowing. Just like all body language advice, only nod when you can do so in an authentic manner. With that said, if you can nod genuinely when someone speaks to you, during a Q&A for example, then definitely do so. Your positive nonverbal cue will make the other person feel accepted and supported, and you will be viewed as a warm person.
The excerpt included below, from The Muse article, 3 Simple Ways to Make People Want to Talk to You by Sarah Chang, explains some of the appeal of nodding, especially the triple nod.
For example, body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards explains that the triple nod approach is a nonverbal cue that encourages people to talk longer and divulge more details. Not only do you show you’re interested in the conversation, but you build rapport in a natural way—key to getting the inside scoop on what they’re thinking.
3. Use open gestures.
By now we all know that crossing our arms is a body language no-no; the crossed arm gesture is considered a closed posture that communicates defensiveness.
To be open, literally open your arms wide when you need to make a big point or your presentation. At a minimum, let you arms move naturally at your side as you speak. If you can move around the room or stage while directing your open posture and open gestures towards different parts of the audience, your openness will have the maximum possible impact on the audience.
If your body feels tight, closed, or defensive, it probably is. Loosen up and let your body language communicate the openness you feel towards the audience. If you don’t feel open towards the audience, adjust your perspective before you deliver your presentation. If you’re not open to the audience members, they will not be open to your ideas. That is just how it goes.
Conclusion: Smile, nod, and use open gestures to communicate your warmth to your audience. If you communicate warmth, and the audience senses your trustworthiness as well as your friendliness, you will be on the path to a successful presentation.
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