The Grand Gesture of Body Language

More often than not, we think of communication as verbal. This is not the case as communication stretches beyond the mouth of linguistics and into the grand gesture of body language.

First published in 1972, Albert Mehrabian’s model has become one of the most widely referenced statistics in communications. Here’s the overly-simplistic interpretation:

  • 7% of meaning in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

Amy Cuddy, Simon Sinek, and Brené Brown are some of the best TED Talks’ speakers out there. What do they all have in common? Their body language speaks volumes; it’s charismatic, endearing, and intelligent. They lean in towards the audience, maintain sweeping eye contact and grin from ear to ear.

TED Talks are videos that present a great idea in eighteen minutes or less. In 2019 (before the digital epidemic!), it was reported that these talks were viewed or listened to more than three billion times annually. While video conferences are taking the internet by storm, Vanessa Van Edwards found that the most influential speakers use 70% more hand gestures when compared to less popular speakers.

Look no further than Amy Cuddy’s well known TED Talk about power posing to literally help you stand tall!

The Vault has seen our leadership development programmes move from the conference room, to the laptop screen, and now back to an interesting hybrid of both. So how do we hold attention and make an impact on-screen?  Nicky Carnie, associate coach and facilitator at Commsbank shares her three top tips to Zoom in on body language and let your hands do the talking:

1. Eye contact

Eye contact is one of the most effective ways to make another person feel recognised, understood, and validated. While eye contact exudes professionalism and status, it’s easy to zone out and gaze into the distance of chaos. Keyboard typing, barking dogs, and crying kids go hand in hand with the flexibility of home working. Lucky for us, Zoom has created a virtual background and noise cancellation feature that reduces unwanted distractions and promotes productivity, helping you to focus on the faces in front of you.

2. Smile and nod – a lot!

An authentic smile is the universal language of happiness. By complimenting a smile with a gentle head nod, we can establish a meaningful connection and open the pathway for mutual understanding. According to the Zoom prodigy, Rosemary Ravinal, smiling is a superpower and it’s ‘one of the characteristics of an effective public speaker.’ Facial expressions bring our conversations alive, and they can help us command a virtual room with ‘warmth, likeability, and credibility.’  Our Vault team of coaches and facilitators have the best smiles in the business 😊.

3. Open posture

Besides working wonders for our health and wellbeing, a good posture welcomes warmth with open arms. On the contrary, a closed posture can feel like a safe haven but express a sign of resistance. Instead of slouching on the sofa and crossing our arms, we should straight and lean slightly towards the screen. The motion of leaning forward can express confidence and invite a level of comfortability.  In the days of global travel you may recall the in-flight exercise programme, there are many on-screen versions to get your body moving in the right way. Here’s one from the NHS to get you started.

The team at Commsbank are expert communicators. The Bank will define your message and The Vault will provide the support to deliver that message with impact.  Get in touch, and when we have a video call we will be noting your eye contact, smile and posture!

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