Executive Presence Communication: Verbal vs Non-Verbal

According to Professor Albert Mehrabian’s now-famous research findings, most human communication is non-verbal. He found that only seven percent of what we communicate is to be found in the actual words we use. Of the remaining 93%, 55% percent is non-verbal (i.e., body language), and 38% is in the tone of our voices. Therefore, to understand the intricacies of Executive Presence communication, we need to know how our body language expresses and demonstrates our ability to provide effective leadership (or doesn’t). You will never inspire others to achieve and follow your lead through your words alone. The majority of your Executive Presence is in your body language.  

Enhancing Verbal Skills for Effective Leadership

Although non-verbal cues make up most of your communication, that does not mean that verbal communication is insignificant. What you say absolutely matters, so you need to hone your ability to choose your words and express them appropriately. Remember that 38% of your communication does depend on vocal cues – your tone of voice – how you say things, which really goes hand-in-hand with your word choice.  

It is particularly important to express yourself clearly and precisely when communicating online. Effective leaders choose their words carefully and aim to enhance understanding and reduce ambiguity as much as possible. Enhance your verbal skills by focusing on what it is you need your team to know. Wordiness can often obscure meaning rather than express it, so try to say as much as possible with as few words as possible. You will need to explain and qualify what you mean, but if you make brevity your aim, you will make your communications more economical and impactful. As Blaise Pascal said so well, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. “

The Impact of Non-Verbal Communication

Since more than half of our communication is non-verbal, the impact of non-verbal communication is highly significant. People can learn more from how you stand and gesticulate while you say something than from what you actually say. 

With this in mind, you must learn to be aware of what you communicate non-verbally. Become conscious of it, and then be intentional with it. That is the key to Executive Presence communication. You must be able to project leadership, whether you are standing right in front of your team or talking to them through a camera.

Online communication does take away some of your non-verbal communication ability. However, you still have your hands, your eyes, and your facial expressions. You need to learn to use these more effectively if you are to project good Executive Presence online. At the same time, your verbal, particularly vocal, skills will become more important when speaking to people via a digital platform. 

Integrating Verbal and Non-Verbal Strategies

Effective leadership requires 100% of your communication skills and strategies, which means that non-verbal, vocal, and verbal skills must be consciously used together. Depending on the setting, you are likely to use these different combinations. For example, if you are giving a presentation in a boardroom, you will fully use your body language and your vocal and verbal abilities. When seated in front of a webcam, on the other hand, you will need to rely more on your vocal and verbal strategies while modifying your non-verbal cues for that limited setting. The perfect combination of verbal and non-verbal elements can be trained and strategized.

Communication Training for Leaders

To a certain extent, communication comes naturally. However, effective leadership communication is something that can be taught and developed. To start you off, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be conscious of the impression you wish to make and ensure that your body language (your facial expression if you are meeting online) reflects that.
  • Smile. Authentic smiling exudes warmth and empathy. Don’t overdo it, though. It needs to be appropriate to the situation, and it must be seen as genuine.
  • Be careful with your posture. Slumping makes you look like you lack confidence, are low in energy, or simply don’t take proper care of yourself. Stay upright and hold your head high.
  • Make good use of eye contact – this is how you connect personally to people. Remember, when using a webcam, that you need to look directly at the camera if you want to be seen to be making eye contact with others.

Corporate Class Inc. is a global authority in leadership coaching and empowerment. We strive to develop exceptional leaders and to assist organizations in developing effective leadership approaches. Contact us if you want to understand more about Executive Presence communication in physical and online contexts.