A guide to body language in interpersonal communication

A guide to body language in interpersonal communication

When you communicate, you use more than just your voice; in fact, a big part of the information you convey is through non-verbal communication – Body language. We’ve all heard of body language and have a basic understanding of what it is, but how can you interpret and use body language in your everyday conversations with other people? This article will act as a guide to help you in understanding body language and how we can use it in our daily life:

What is body language?

Your body can reveal a lot about your true feelings, intentions and mood during a conversation. Whether you are aware of it or not, your mannerisms, behaviour, gestures and facial expressions can mirror exactly what you are feeling. Understanding body language and interpreting it can help you determine the true feelings and intentions of others during a conversation.

How Do We Communicate Through Body Language?

There are many different ways in which we communicate through body language. To effectively develop your interpersonal skills, it is important to understand these types of non-verbal communication and what they can reveal to others.

  • Eye contact – How do you look at someone? How do you hold eye contact? How often do you blink? These non-verbal behaviours can reveal many emotions such as anger, sadness, excitement, boredom, fear and stress. Maintaining direct eye contact also tells the other person that you are still paying attention.
  • Body movement and gestures – You can tell a lot about someone from how they stand, sit, slouch, move their hands or feet. Body movement, gestures and posture can communicate so many different things during a conversation. For instance, when people use excessive hand gestures while arguing, it can reveal the level of their hostility, anger or nervousness.
  • Facial expressions – Normally, this nonverbal signal is spontaneous and natural; arching your eyebrows, widening your eyes or pursing your lips can tell a lot about how you feel. Many people can not control their facial expressions when they experience emotions such as shock, excitement or fear. Facial expressions are also one of the few forms of communication that is the same across most different cultures and are therefore universally understood.
  • Touch and space – Physical contact can say a lot about your intentions and feelings. For example, a weak handshake can reveal to others that you lack confidence, whereas a tight grip of someone’s upper arm may reveal hostility or danger. In the same way, your proximity to someone may also tell many things during a conversation. If you are comfortable with someone, you might sit closely next to them, but you might feel naturally inclined to increase the social distance between you when you feel threatened.
  • Tone of voice – How you speak is also important if you want to send the right message to others. When giving condolences, it would be inappropriate to talk loud and cheerfully, for example. Your tone and inflection must match the content of your message. Your tone of voice might also differ according to the social setting you are in, e.g. a funeral vs. the workplace. When speaking to colleagues, you might want to show professionalism, while you want to show empathy when talking to family members at a funeral. Knowing when to adjust your tone can require a lot of emotional intelligence.

The importance of body language and nonverbal communication

In some instances, what you say and communicate through your body language can be two different things. If your body language and words do not match, it can cause the listener to suspect that you are deceitful. However, if you have a good understanding of non-verbal communication, you can ensure that your spoken words match your actions, and consequently, you can build trust and strong connections with others.

Mastering your non-verbal communication skills requires full focus and understanding of the rapid back-and-forth flow of interpersonal communication. Understanding body language can help you develop a higher level of emotional awareness and become a more effective communicator. It is essential to remain present during a conversation, interpret non-verbal cues from others, and stay aware of your own actions during any social interaction.

Eye contact: Its Role in Interpersonal Communication

Importance of Eye Contact In Communication

Making eye contact during a conversation is one of the best ways to show someone that you care about what they are saying.  Your eyes can also convey a wide range of other information and emotions without you even realizing it.  However, making eye contact isn’t necessarily a skill that comes naturally to everyone, and knowing what the appropriate amount of eye contact is can be challenging.

Using the appropriate amount of eye contact can help you to show interest, attentiveness and concern. In contrast, too much eye contact may be inappropriate and creepy, and a lack of eye contact can seem disinterested, inattentive and rude. There are many ways in which mastering the art of eye contact can help you with non-verbal communication, both in the workplace and out in the world.

Importance of Eye Contact In Communication

There are several reasons why eye contact can play a vital role in effective interpersonal communication.  Understanding how appropriate eye contact can influence communication is very important for self-awareness and personal growth. Here are a few reasons why eye contact can be so important:

  • It shows respect – In the Western culture, eye contact can be a crucial way that individuals show each other respect. This might not be the only way to show respect, but by looking someone in the eye during an interaction, we acknowledge that we regard them as equals in importance.
  • It shows that you are still following the conversation – By locking eyes with someone, it can be a sure-fire indicator that you still understand and are paying attention to what they are saying. By maintaining eye contact and giving regular feedback, you will ensure a successful verbal exchange with others.
  • It helps us bond with one another – There are certain neurons within the human brain that are highly sensitive to facial expressions and eye contact. This means that eye contact can act as a tool for establishing intimacy, empathy, linking emotional states and creating bonds between humans.
  • It helps us to see the true feelings and thoughts of others – Although eye contact can indeed reveal our innermost thoughts to others, the opposite is also true. By making eye contact with someone, we might be able to learn more about them. From someone’s eyes, you might be able to tell shyness, sadness, disgust or even affection.
  • It helps us convey confidence – When we are confident, we have little problem maintaining eye contact, whereas it is more difficult to look others in the eye when we lack self-confidence or when we are nervous. Maintaining eye contact can therefore show assertiveness and help us seem more confident and self-assured, especially within a professional context.

The Messages Our Eyes Convey in Communication

Winking, staring, and rolling your eyes, certain eye movements and behaviours have a generally known meaning. There are, however, other messages that we can convey with our eyes without even knowing it, and not all of them are necessarily positive. Here are some examples of messages that eyes might be giving:

  • Looking to the left – It is said that when a speaker breaks their gaze and looks left, they are trying to recollect information, while looking left and straight signifies an internal self-conversation before continuing the discussion.
  • Looking to the right – This can convey self-doubt or deceit from a speaker. Looking to the right might signify someone tapping into their imagination, whereas looking to the left might indicate that someone is activating their memories.
  • Direct eye contact – When a speaker maintains eye contact, it indicates that they are truthful. Listeners who keep eye contact come forth as attentive and interested.
  • Blinking frequently – This could indicate that the participants in a conversation are either very excited or excessively bored. To evaluate the meaning behind this cue, it might be necessary to analyze other non-verbal signals, such as gestures, posture, tension, etc.
  • Rubbing your eyes – The most common reason someone might be rubbing their eyes is tiredness, but this can also indicate frustration and iritation. Again it is essential to look at other non-verbal cues to analyze the meaning behind this behaviour.

Paying attention to the eye movements and other non-verbal behaviours that you and others might display is the best way to understand the true feelings and intentions of others. Knowing what signals you send with your eyes can also help you develop your interpersonal communication skills, which may benefit you in all aspects of your everyday life.

What are interpersonal communication skills?

What are interpersonal communication skills

Interpersonal communication skills are the abilities we need to communicate effectively, both verbally and non-verbally. Possessing these skills can help us to work well with others and interact effectively with others out in the world. These skills can be greatly valued in a work environment as they can help lead a business to higher success rates. Employees with pleasant demeanours and practical communication abilities are therefore more likely to do well in the workplace. They do better with teamwork, constructive feedback and within team-building situations.

These skills depend on a person’s ability to pick up on and interpret signals from other people to adequately and appropriately respond. They may be more developed in some people than others and can depend greatly on the personality type of certain individuals. To learn more about strong interpersonal skills, however, it is vital to first understand the concept of interpersonal communication.

What is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication is the act of sharing information such as thoughts, emotions, and ideas verbally and non-verbally between people. By effectively sharing information, we can better understand and interact with others, both professionally and personally. With the digital age upon us and with so many different channels of communication available, it is becoming increasingly important for individuals to harness and develop how they communicate.

Elements of Interpersonal Communication

There are a few elements that play a role in effective interpersonal communication. These elements have been the subject of many research studies and can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Communicators – It goes without saying that any conversation needs at least two participants. Within this verbal transaction, there is always a sender and a receiver. However, these roles often switch between individuals as the conversation progresses because of the need for back and forth communication. There is, therefore, more than one communicator that will both receive and send messages in an interactive exchange.
  • The Message – This is more than just the information conveyed throughout a conversation. Things like non-verbal cues, posture, direct eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and body language can also contribute to the message received during communication. Non-verbal signals can be just as important to a message as spoken words, as they can convey our true feelings. For example, it is more challenging to hide emotions such as tension, sadness, disgust or affection with non-verbal behaviours as body language can reveal more than we think. The message that is then given as a response is known as feedback.
  • Noise – This can be defined as anything that can distort the message. With interpersonal communication, this includes physical noise but can also include disinterest, lack of eye contact or attention, complicated words, cultural differences and misunderstanding.
  • Channel – This refers to the means of communication, how it is transmitted. Communication can be face-to-face, telephonic, written. Different channels of communication rely on different verbal and non-verbal elements. For example, a telephone conversation is not reliant on body language but relies mainly on speech, whereas face-to-face conversations also rely on non-verbal communicators.
  • Context – The context in which communication takes place is very important for successful interpersonal communication. When a conversation takes place in a social setting, it requires different situational skills than a conversation in an office.

Why you should practice your interpersonal communication skills.

Even though some people may be born with the ability to use such skills effectively, there are many people to whom this ability does not come naturally. Of course, these are skills that can be learned and improved through practice. Here are some workplace benefits of developing your interpersonal communication skills:

  • Build your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Build better relationships with team members.
  • Develop people skills, reduce misunderstandings and gain job satisfaction.
  • Enhanced problem-solving, negotiation and conflict management skills.
  • Battle shyness to improve confidence and assertiveness.

It is important to remain aware of your ability to communicate with those around you effectively. By practising self-awareness, you will be able to identify any problem points you may experience with interpersonal communication, allowing you to focus on development and self-growth.

Top 4 Interpersonal Communication Skills You Need to Get Ahead at Work (2021 Update)

What are the most important skills to have to get ahead in your career? Some essential skills include increasing your visibility, getting others to perceive you in a positive light, developing your executive presence and having strong interpersonal communication skills.

What are interpersonal communication skills?

A general definition would be that interpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. According to a recent article in Hubpages, Terersa Coppens groups interpersonal skills into four main categories:

Most interpersonal skills can be grouped under one of four main forms of communication: verbal, listening, written and non-verbal communication. Some skills such as recognition of stress and attitude are important to all forms of interpersonal communication. Effective communication skills result in mutual understanding. Poor communication wastes time and resources, get in the way of accomplishing goals and can sour relationships.

Some people may view interpersonal skills as a natural talent that people either have or don’t. But the truth is that they are skills that can easily be learned and developed. One of the best ways to improve any skill is through active and continuous practice. There are several ways in which all 4 types of interpersonal communication can be improved upon and several reasons why you may want to.

What are the 4 types of interpersonal communication?

Listening skills (possibly the most important of all communication skills) and verbal skills include:

  • Relaxation – a calm, self-confident manner allows for more coherent verbal expression and gives the impression of an active listener.
  • Positive attitude – all people prefer communicating with the happy, accepting person.
  • Empathy – by seeing, understanding and respecting another’s point of view, a person gains respect and the trust of others as a speaker and is seen as an attentive listener.
  • Understanding stress in yourself and others – allows for self-monitoring of your own verbal communication and a greater understanding of a speaker’s motivations; you realize when your tone of voice or word choice is affected by internal feelings of stress and as well understand when you are listening to someone who’s speech is affected by stress; it allows you to compensate accordingly.
  • Assertiveness – this quality is essential and fundamental to negotiation in that the participants express beliefs in a way others can understand but also respect the thoughts and feelings of all involved
  • Teamwork – includes adaptability and flexibility in dealing with differing personalities and differing interpersonal skill levels.

interpersonal communication skills

Active listening – A successful communication skill

When listening to someone speaking, you can simply passively hear their message or actively listen to understand, learn, and respond. When learning how to listen to others actively, you can learn more about different people’s insights, perspectives, and experiences.

Using active listening in the workplace can accelerate growth personally and professionally because it facilitates learning from others and considering new ideas. This is undoubtedly one of the most vital skills that can be developed for personal growth. Since listening is one-half of effective communication exchange, it is almost impossible to communicate at all without it.

When we listen actively, we can respond effectively to ensure a beneficial. That is why listening with focus and effort can be critical while remaining as involved in the discussion as the speaker. Sharpening your listening skills can be an essential part of developing good interpersonal communication skills. Here are a few tips to help you build your active listening:

  • Focus on the conversation at hand. Try not to multitask but give the speaker your undivided attention.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker. Interrupting someone might give off the impression that you don’t find what they are saying very important.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Have patience and allow people to get to the point on their own time and do not try to finish their points for them,
  • Ask questions. This shows that you are interested and would like clarity and context.

Written Communication Skills and Interpersonal Communication

Nearly all jobs will require you to write something at some point. Effective written communication can be a make or break for effectively conveying a message to someone else. The ability to write clearly and concisely ensures that everyone you communicate with will understand the message that you are trying to give.

Written communication can share many of the same attributes as verbal communication, good sentence construction and word choice play a vital role in this type of communication, just as with verbal communication. There are, however, a few differences between written and oral communication. Where verbal communication relies greatly on body language, tone of voice and eye contact for added context clues, written communication must convey a message effectively without any of these.

To develop effective written communication, it is crucial to focus on skills that help you gain greater attention to detail and understanding of grammar, punctuation and word choice.

Written skills include:

  • Analysis – strong analytical and research skills are key in expressing new ideas and getting them accepted by co-workers and senior management.
  • Computer and technical literacy – these skills are essential in the business world as most written communication and all analysis of data occurs on the computer.
  • Professionalism – this quality is important in all forms of interpersonal communication including written communication; standard formats for business correspondence are common, and spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable, eroding a worker’s value in the firm

Non-verbal interpersonal skills include:

  • Body language
  • Eye-contact
  • Micro-facial expressions

Eye contact: Its role in interpersonal communication

Eye contact is one of the best-known aspects of non-verbal communication. From eye contact or a lack thereof, it is possible to tell a lot about someone and their intentions. When someone can establish good eye contact, they are perceived as trustworthy and confident, at least according to western culture.

When someone subsequently fails to maintain eye contact, they are perceived as less credible or reliable when they look down or if their eyes constantly stray. That being said, there is also a more refined nuance when it comes to breaks of gaze. When expressing condolences, a drop of gaze might portray genuine sympathy or compassion. A drop in gaze may also display guilt or remorse when someone is being questioned.

Similarly, there are many different ways in which eye contact can be very revealing during a conversation. For example, an active listener will most likely focus their gaze on the speaker’s lips when conversing. If the listener breaks this gaze and makes eye contact with the speaker, it can be seen as a non-verbal cue that they would like to interject or say something.

Understanding these subtle nuances of non-verbal communication through eye contact can help you gain more context clues from the conversation and seem more credible and confident during discussions with others.

Body language in interpersonal communication

Body language is what you are saying when you aren’t saying anything. Often, your body language can speak the loudest when you are engaged in conversation with others. Your facial expressions, gestures, posture and tone of voice can reveal a lot about how you are feeling within a conversation.

Non-verbal cues, portrayed in the way you listen, look, move and react are essential in showing other participants in a conversation that you care, are trustworthy and that you are actively listening. Body language gets picked up subconsciously by others. When faced with believing your verbal message or the message portrayed by your body language, most people will feel inclined to judge you by your body language.

Body language is often instinctive and not conscious, which is why it can be a very good indicator of a person’s true feelings and intent. Most of us are constantly analyzing each other’s body language without even realizing it, which is why it can be very beneficial to be aware of your body and the messages you are conveying with it during conversations.

In his pioneering fieldwork, Professor Mehrabian made two key points:

  1. a) There are 3 elements in face-to-face communications, often called the “3-Vs:”
  • Verbal, or words
  • Vocal, or tone of voice
  • Visual, meaning non-verbal behaviours or Body Language
  1. b) Visual components communicate far more than verbal – in situations where the words are not compatible with the non-verbal signals – and people tend to believe the behaviour and the tone of voice, not the verbal message.

According to Professor Mehrabian, we evaluate the 3-Vs quite differently. His findings are often called the 7%-38%-55% rule or the Mehrabian formula:

  • 7% Verbal
  • 38% Vocal
  • 55% Visual

His formula was refined under research conditions where there was incompatibility, or incongruence, between words and facial expressions when communicating feelings and attitudes.

Why do interpersonal communication skills matter?

All of the above can reinforce the honesty, integrity and trust of personal interaction with co-workers and clients. In verbal exchanges, a person lacking eye contact is seen as dishonest and/ or lacking confidence in their words. Reliability and responsibility are also conveyed by positive gestures and body language that match the tone and content of the speaker’s voice. Excessive hand gestures and invasion of another’s personal space are intimidating and detracts from the value of the conversation. Leaders with poor non-verbal communication skills are not viewed as effective and leading to lower productivity and poor office morale.

Having good technical and professional skills paired with good communication skills can help professionals stay ahead of the competition. Having the ability to communicate effectively with co-workers, employees and customers can be very beneficial in building effective, solid and lasting interpersonal relationships.

These skills can help collaboration with others, provide guidance, support and reassurance, and convey information effectively. Understanding these skills will also enable you to read a room, understand how your actions affect others, and help you fully grasp what others are trying to tell you.

Interpersonal communication skills in the workplace

While it is imperative that employees possess the technical abilities to fulfill their duties, a well-functioning, effective team highly relies on each team member being able to communicate and highlight concerns with their peers. Technical skills are the hard skills needed to complete tasks, whereas people skills are the soft skills necessary for interpersonal communication and understanding.

A lack of interpersonal skills in a work environment can lead to many issues within the workflow and satisfaction within teams. Lack of communication can easily lead to frustration, disconnect and lowered morale and productivity. The team may not feel that they can function as a team. Communication can also be vital in ensuring that clients do not feel neglected or forgotten. This is why all employees must be able to communicate, provide feedback and listen to concerns.

Improved interpersonal communication in the workplace can be crucial to business success. It falls upon all employers and employees to develop self-awareness of their own interpersonal skills and work on the areas where they might be lacking. A business might be able to motivate its employees to strengthen their communication through incentives and training.

How to assess your own interpersonal communication skills

When assessing your interpersonal skills, many online tools and questionnaires may help you analyze how effectively you communicate with others. Knowing how to discern between effective and ineffective interpersonal skills can be very important as these skills can be the hardest to self-analyze. One way to assess your interpersonal skills is to evaluate all of the aspects of interpersonal communication individually and to determine how effectively you can master each.

Businesses can assess the interpersonal skills of their employees using tests, reports such as reference letters or peer feedback, and conversations with each employee. Employees might even be asked to evaluate each other on several aspects of interpersonal communication. Written and listening skills can be evaluated using comprehension and writing tests.

Although these assessments can be valuable in identifying employees that could benefit from interpersonal skills training, it is important to note that they can be indicative of previous performance and behaviour and might not be an accurate reflection of future performance. Therefore it may also be beneficial to observe employees outside of these assessments to see how they perform on a daily basis.

5 tips to improve your interpersonal communication skills

Developing strong interpersonal skills can be beneficial for both your professional and personal life.  There are many different ways in which these skills can be improved and perfected with some effort and dedication. Here are 5 tips to help you if you are looking to improve your interpersonal communication skills:

  • Practice maintaining appropriate eye contact – Actively work on giving attention to others during conversations to portray interest, validation and focus. This will also help you to avoid distractions around you.
  • Be truthful – Many times, people can be very intuitive, and it is surprisingly easy to pick up on defeat. Being honest with others will strengthen your relationships and maintain your reputation and integrity.
  • Become more aware of your gestures and posture during conversations – No matter how subtle your gestures may be, they can say a lot about you. For example, try not to cross your arms or slouch as this may show disinterest or boredom.
  • Stay positive – If you appear happy and optimistic, others will be more open to speaking with you as you appear non-judgemental, welcoming and accepting. Focus on how things can improve and develop instead of focussing on the negatives.
  • Read more – Reading will help you to grow your vocabulary and become more articulate. Being aware of global news, scientific developments and general knowledge will also help you communicate more effectively. Reading will also help you to improve your writing skills.

Reflect on your personal development regularly to continuously improve and learn. Be open to opportunities that might help you grow and understand the intricacies of interpersonal, verbal and non-verbal communication. It goes without saying that interpersonal communication skills are essential in any career or business as person-to-person interaction is required at any level and for virtually any job. Build key interpersonal skills by developing executive presence.

Master your leadership, social and interpersonal skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

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5 Virtual Meetings Best Practices for Zoom and Other Social Platforms

Amid a global pandemic, we are striving to get results without being able to meet face-to-face.  We need to lead our teams, but we need to do it screen-to-screen.  There are several platforms available, all which do a great job at enabling the screen-to-screen experience.  Granted, but why is it so much more difficult than running a face-to-face meeting? 

At the best of times, most of us are anxious speakers. 

Our shyness, nerves and anxiety revolve around what to say and how to say it.  Those feelings do not just go away when we meet with others virtually.  Our discomfort grows when we add to that the ‘newness’ of these virtual platforms, the limitations of internet bandwidth and the discomfort with always being on screen. 

A few months ago, we were used to letting our mind wander while watching TV.  Now, it’s watching us!  A further complication is interpreting facial expressions when participating in a screen-to-screen meeting. 

Micro-facial expressions are essential to our understanding of one another.

On screen, facial expressions all but disappear, are distorted or frozen for a moment due to internet connectivity.  Eye contact, so critical in face-to-face communication is difficult to achieve on screen.  It is hard to know where to look. 

As a default, we tend to look at ourselves (yikes).   

Some of us are exhausted with screen-to-screen meetings.  It seems that all our social interaction is on screen.  Our job, family, club, church, and even our doctor all occurs at home, on screen. 

What has not changed for leaders, is the need to plan, manage and facilitate our team meetings. 

Importantly, we need to engage our meeting participants.  That said, many of us were not always successful engaging our teams when we met face-to-face.  Screen-to-screen meetings just exacerbates the problem.  

Here are 5 important virtual meetings best practices for zoom and other social platforms:

Clothing

Dressing appropriately, contributes to your presence, where dressing inappropriately takes away from it. 

The rule is to dress for your audience.  If your office dress code is business casual, then dress that way for your virtual meetings.  

Here are some additional guidelines to keep in mind when on camera:

  • Avoid bright coloured clothing and accessories; they tend to reflect light and are too vivid on camera.  Instead, wear a blue, gray, pink, or beige shirt/blouse
  • Avoid black suits/jackets which tend to diminish your appearance because they absorb too much light.  Instead, wear a medium colored suit, best bets are blue/dark blue, gray, and brown
  • Avoid fabrics with complicated patterns such as checks, tight/close stripes, herringbones, tweeds, and loud plaids. Fabrics of this design tend to strobe and or flutter on camera which can be distracting
  • Wear clothes made of natural fabrics that tend to breathe easily under the warm studio lights. This allows you to remain feeling cool and comfortable
  • Avoid shiny jewelry that may sparkle, or any jewelry that rattles and may cause a distracting noise
  • Style your hair off your face to avoid shadows. A clearer view of your face allows the audience to see your expressions and connect with you more when you speak

Lighting

Merriam Webster dictionary defines “in the best light” as – “in a way that makes someone, or something appear in the best way.”  This is especially true when you participate in a screen-to-screen meeting.  Many people do not consider proper lighting at all, and it shows.  Regrettably, it reflects on their ‘presence’ as well.

The good news is you don’t have to invest $100’s in Hollywood lighting to show up “in the best light.”  Ambient light can do the trick.  Face a window if you have one in your workspace.  If that does not produce the desired effect, consider augmenting your space with additional lighting. 

Sound

It always makes great sense to procure a USB microphone or a USB computer headset with microphone for your virtual meetings to eliminate echo and reduce sound distortion.

Background

If you are going to use your natural environment for background, ensure it is neat and any distracting objects are removed.  Some web-based meeting platforms like ZOOM provide virtual backgrounds that you can substitute for your natural background.  If you choose a virtual background, you should consider using a green screen.  It provides stability to the background and eliminates jumpy images.

Your best angle and maintaining eye contact

You want to look your best when you are on camera.  The first step is to locate your web cam and raise your laptop so that your web cam is at your eye level or slightly above.  A virtual meeting needs human connection, and if your video is not relatable, it will be a distraction. Angles that are too low or too high will be distracting. Humanize your meeting by literally leveling with and looking in the eye of the people you’re talking to.  You may have to raise your laptop using boxes or their equivalent.  One more thing: IF you are using two screens, make sure you move the platform screen below your camera otherwise it will look like you are looking at something else in the room.

Finally, establish your on-camera position.  The safest composition for all devices is upper chest level.  Mimic how close you will get in an actual in-person meeting. When you are meeting someone in person, face to face, you don’t get too close or too far away – you just keep enough distance that you can hear each other.   Frame your position using the ‘Rule of Thirds’, a mechanism that photographers use to frame their shots. 

Barry Kuntz
Senior Associate, Corporate Class Inc.

Top 5 Presentation Tips from a Public Speaking Coach in Toronto

Your upcoming presentation is an important initiative. No doubt, you have an exciting message to convey to a sophisticated audience. Since your audience will be listening with great anticipation, it’s important to deliver opening remarks that lend credibility and sets the tone for the day. The content needs to be clear, brief/to the point, and impactful. Although the content is critical, it is not what will convince your audience — you will. As a public speaking coach in Toronto, I’ve helped many clients polish their presentation skills, and in this post, we will work on some of those key principles together. Truly powerful communication inspires audiences to action. As a speaker, your job is to persuade. Whether you seek to change beliefs, perspectives, or actions, all communication is geared towards changing something. The only way to change anything is by persuading the audience with ideas. The goal is to communicate clear, concise and convincing ideas. Let’s make sure your remarks convey your ideas and that your audience is prepared to commit to them at the end of your speech. The courage to speak with conviction elevates the definition of communication. As an expert, you want to focus on the ideas you believe your audience needs to hear.  At the onset, the audience may be skeptical or not agree with you. That’s why it’s so important to engage them from the start and be sure to persuade them in the end to commit to your idea. The presentation tips outlined below will help structure your speech in a way that is engaging to the audience right from the start.

1. Speak with Conviction

To speak from a point of belief and conviction, it must be clear in your mind, as to the reason why you are speaking to this audience. You can ask yourself: a) why are you speaking to this audience of senior executives? and b) why should they listen to you? Once this is clear in your mind, it will trigger your mindset and support you to speak from a point of belief and conviction.

2. Get to the Point in One Sentence

Build a relationship with your audience instantly by starting with a strong introduction.  Frame your introduction as a headline: Ex: “I believe THAT new finance will be the major driver of global economic growth. So much so, we at Company XYZ have invested $9B in R&D towards that.” Tell us in one sentence (7 words or less) what you want to talk about. Get to the point immediately, audiences will wander away if you don’t. Most speakers start from creating a context for their content in order to help the audience understand how they came to their conclusion. The problem is that the audience doesn’t know what the speaker is trying to prove or defend. So, they get lost, confused, and sleepy, and we hope they wake up for the big reveal and the call to action. People’s attention span is about 3-5 seconds. If the speaker is interesting, people will go in, out, in, out…if the speaker is not engaging from the start, people go in, out and stay out. The word THAT is useful in ensuring that the sentence is an active idea rather than a passive statement of fact.

  • The one idea I have is THAT…
  • The message I want to share is THAT…
  • My argument is THAT…

a) What do you want your audience to feel and think at the conclusion of your talk? b) What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk? It is not easy to ask. Although, whatever your ask is, it stands to reason that your chances of success skyrocket when you actually ask for what you want.

3. Identify Your Main Points

Answer the WHY Example: a) Every social advance has resulted from technological progress b) Industry 4.0 means huge opportunities and challenges for the financial sector Show the HOW Example: a) The global financial information platform will be based on cloud services and Big Data, and everyone will be more and more able to access the platform via apps on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere. Prove your conclusion up front, it engages the audience.

4. Prove Your Point

Identify the evidence that support your main points: Use only details that support your conclusion. If you need to discuss a list, call out all items first before discussing each.

5. State Your Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk?  Again, your request has to be concrete. By leveraging our strengths, we will contribute to social development and help create a better future.”  This is not concrete enough… This conclusion will invite smiles and nods and allow the audience to leave without demonstrating their commitment to your message/ideas. This message will soon be forgotten.  Presentation Tips Recap:

  • What is your goal in delivering these opening remarks?
  • How do you want to set the tone for the day?
  • What is the main topic you want to discuss?
  • What idea/s do you need to convince them of?
  • What arguments will you use to convince them?
  • Come full circle in the end … “So now you can see/understand why I said at the beginning THAT…”
  • What do you want them to do now?

I trust answering all of these presentation tips will move you closer to the end goal of delivering a polished speech with poise and command. If you’d like to work with a public speaking coach in Toronto or virtually online, get in touch with us. We can help take your presentation skills to the next level!

First Impressions are powerful: In a split second they establish the existence or absence of Executive Presence

first impressions

First impressions are the building blocks of every connection we make. They impact our decisions about whether to proceed with the connection and ultimately have the potential to derail an impending relationship.

Developing the ability to read people and interpret your initial connections with them can guide you to manage how you are perceived; the impact you make, and the opinion people form of you in that very first encounter.

Foe or friend?

Experts agree that we have a genetic pre-disposition to form fast, accurate first impressions. This intuitive ability can be traced back to our cavemen ancestors. They were on high alert every time an outsider appeared on the horizon: “Foe or Friend? Am I in danger?” This is our primal instinct working. It’s in our DNA to jump to conclusions when we meet someone new.

Executive Presence is synonymous with creating a positive, charismatic First Impression

Analyzing your own First Impressions of people equips you to increase your awareness of their perception of you. This helps fine-tune behavior that leads to increased levels of engagement – and the ultimate goal of Executive Presence.

How are First Impressions created?

We make assumptions and judgments using hunches and intuition, not information.

There are 4 key factors that influence our First Impressions
These are:

  • Likeability
  • Credibility
  • Power
  • Appearance

As part of our intuitive process these are the entry points we use to make judgments:

Factor 1. Likeability

“Am I comfortable with this person?”
We respond to warmth and friendliness.
 We are at ease with extroverts; they are demonstrative and expressive.
“Am I confusing shyness with concealment?”
We often misjudge introverts for their soft speech patterns or limited eye contact.

Factor 2. Credibility

“Do I trust and believe this person?”
We have an irrepressible need is to feel at ease with people.

Factor 3. Power

Powerful people exercise influence. 
We recognize their authority and involuntarily feel the need to please them.

Factor 4. Appearance

“Do I like the look of this person?”
Yes, we do judge a book by its cover when it comes to first impressions.
The upshot is we generally consider ‘likeable’ people attractive. Attention-to-grooming is key to how we measure attractiveness and appearance.

Takeaway

The key to making a positive First Impression is to focus on how you make people feel about themselves. To achieve the right state of mindfulness:

  • Be conscious of how you’re feeling
  • Take control of your emotions and your energy level
  • Focus on positive thoughts

Experts have proven that our mind can change our body. When we’re happy, we walk more energetically; we lift our head and shoulders. When we sit up straight, the entire body “salutes” our surroundings. We appear attentive, open and receptive.
Finally, remember as we judge others, they judge us.

Back to school countdown!

Classes will soon be in session:
Courses for individuals!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 marks the opening of our new fall curriculum with Introduction to Executive Presence & First Impressions.
This 90-minute, interactive session takes place at our Toronto Head Office from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. Fee: $225.00

To enroll, contact Michelle Yuen at: 416-967-1221 Ext 107 or Click here

In our complex, challenging and competitive world, Executive Presence is not an optional asset. Executive Presence is an expectation. We encourage you to take stock of your presence to take charge of your future.

Six Steps To Achieving Essential Board Presence

board presence

Most senior executives know that an invitation to speak to the board of directors is a rite of passage. It signals the board’s desire to hear details and question people directly and acknowledges the presenter’s authority. For first-timers, it can indicate a change in status. In many organizations, however, both people new to the experience and seasoned executives are often ill-equipped to meet board directors’ expectations. Board presence is the ability to fulfill those expectations … Continue Reading

Continue reading

When presenting to senior leaders – start with the answer first.

pyramid principle

An invitation to present to C-Suite leaders typically prompts excitement. It’s sometimes even a wow moment. “Hurrah, here’s my chance to show what I can do!” Yet all too often, enthusiasm spirals downward into an abyss of fear as the impact of the invitation sinks in.

Whether it was extended to a senior executive or new professional – anxiety is common. The solution to managing the stress is twofold:

a) The Pyramid Principle
b) Practice and more practice

To the uninitiated, The Pyramid Principle is a powerful presentation management system. It actually was “invented” by Harvard Business School professor Barbara Minto. The core of the concept is to start with the ending. The conclusion comes first! Supporting data follows and is logically organized in a specific and easy-to-follow manner.

At Corporate Class, we actively encourage adopting The Minto Pyramid Principle for three reasons:

  • Presenters are forced to construct materials in an orderly manner
  • Audiences learn about the substance of content immediately
  • Back-up data is more understandable when applied to already stated objectives

The rule of three

Coincidentally, this offers an interesting example of a writing principle widely used for structuring presentations with the Pyramid system: the rule of three.

At its essence, the rule of three combines brevity and rhythm to encourage audiences to retain the information.

“The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.” – Wikipedia

Many stories, slogans and movie titles are structured in threes; consider for example, The Three Musketeers, Faster, Higher, Stronger – the Olympic motto or the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Why The Pyramid Principle?

For many people, the idea is contrary to what seems natural. They want to build up to their big idea and are sometimes resistant to this technique. We remind people that a business presentation is not a movie script or a Broadway show. The audience is not looking for a surprise ending. Busy executives appreciate an introduction that cuts right to the chase. McKinsey & Company, the global management and consulting company to many of the world’s most influential businesses strongly advocates, “start with the answer first.”

Practice and more practice

There is no substitute for rehearsal. The most carefully written presentations fall on deaf ears when presenters fumble. The audience stops listening and paying attention. Even if the presenter manages to get back on track, it’s often too late. This is not to suggest that every presentation should be memorized in its entirety, notes are absolutely acceptable. It’s the presenter’s ability to use the notes as cues that counts – and that only comes with practice. This process also provides a profoundly calming effect. As presenters become more comfortable with their material, their delivery improves and they feel a new sense of confidence.

Ideally, toward the end of the rehearsal process, a non-threatening third party can play an instrumental role as coach.

Learn more about our Presentation Skills Training

Presenting to the Board of Directors: The high stakes forum of corporate life

presenting to the board

To the uninitiated, the concept of Board Presence may be interpreted as a form of advanced presentation skills training. Yes, that is a component but interfacing with the Board, notably for first-timers, demands familiarity with its intricacies:

  • Understanding of expectations
  • Engaging and interacting with the appropriate tone and respect
  • Roles of Board members and the Chair
  • Dealing with short attention spans – and the right way to respond
  • Contingency planning when presentations are cut short
  • Preparing for vigorous Q&A

It is a fact of corporate life that presenting to the Board of Directors is a very big deal!

Board members’ expectations run high. They are not passive listeners but active participants, eager for clear, concise information they can discuss among themselves – immediately. They ask questions and expect prompt answers.

We developed Board Presence Workshops to train executives for these highly demanding and often intense interactions. The origin had its beginnings in feedback senior leaders received from Board members, frustrated by disappointing, ill-prepared presenters. Especially when this is a new experience or executives are new to the company, they may not understand, and be familiar with the high-performance demands required in meeting with their Board.

C-Suite leaders, from various organizations, realized they needed to equip themselves and their people with the skills to meet and interact with Board members. They approached us to develop training and identified two very specific but differing groups:

  • C-Level leaders
  • Senior executives and managers

C-Level leaders

These experienced professionals realize a first invitation from the Board could signal the possibility of more frequent attendance, demanding a clear understanding and firm grounding of expectations, including detailed presentation guidelines. They comprehend their role as guests, not members, at an exclusive club.
Some admit a sense of presentation anxiety they have not experienced in years. These leaders understand that although stress diminishes with practice, being called to meet with the Board requires meticulous preparation.

Senior executives and managers

This group was seen by numerous organizations as being more vulnerable to stress when invited to this high visibility environment, underestimate the need for specific preparations and fail to understand their role at Board meetings. In addition to high stress levels in this situation, three specific behaviors, complacency, smugness and wordiness (usually among so-called technical experts) were identified as possible pitfalls. The organizations’ workshop objectives ranged from allying stress for those with anxiety, to checking over-confident conduct with comprehensive training that enabled participants to simulate the Board experience.

A unique, hands-on opportunity for participants

CCI Senior Consultant Jim Olson’s expertise was instrumental in enabling us to replicate the sense of Board meetings, and fine-tune content for these BP Workshops. With his extensive experience as a Board member, and currently serving on the Board of Maple Leaf Foods, and as a member of NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors), Jim continues to both facilitate Board Presence Workshops and drive curriculum updates. As a Board Leadership Fellow, Jim is recognized for his expertise and commitment to excellence in the boardroom, notably, the importance of continued education to enhance boardroom skills.

Behind the closed doors of the boardroom

Although CCI works with organizations to customize and address specific requirements attuned to its senior executives, every session goes behind the boardroom doors to examine Board Presence — the precise requirements imperative to excel in this high-stakes environment.

The content for Board Presence Workshops is designed to prepare potential presenters at higher organizational levels including:

  • C-Level leaders
  • Direct reports to CEO and C-Level
  • Senior executives with regular Board interaction
  • Management who interact informally with the Board and its members
  • Department heads accountable to the Board – investor relations, public relations, IT – who may not report directly to its members

Read more about co-facilitators Jim Olson and Diane Craig

Read more about Board Presence

Contact us to discuss your organization’s needs for Board Presence training
team@corporateclassinc.com