PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly
It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It
by Chris Buhler on 10/12/2012
We live in a society that places huge emphasis on communication and the ability to connect well with others. It may surprise you to learn that only a small percentage of communication involves actual words – less than 10 percent, in fact. In communication, more than half of your message will come through your body language or the eye contact you maintain, and 38 percent of communication is vocal – the speed, tone and volume of your voice.
As we make videos for our clients, we try to communicate to them the value of positive body language. According to Speechclub, “The world’s best business communicators have strong body language: a commanding presence that reflects confidence, competence and charisma.” We want our clients to be effective communicators so that their videos are a positive reflection of their businesses.
The recent presidential and vice presidential debates have had me thinking a lot about the difference that body language can make in a person’s – either a candidate or company representative – quest for success. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean said on This Week With George Stephanopoulos that “The key to a debate, if you want to see how it moves the American people, is to turn off the sound, watch the mannerisms. It’s not what they say. I mean, there may be a zinger and that could change things, but — it’s not what they say. It is their mannerisms. It’s how they come across.”
Forbes reported that “In general, audiences respond most favorably to candidates who appear calm and focused, rather than hyper or disorganized.”
I am positive that both of these statements, while originally intended for political debates, also apply to our clients who are being interviewed, whether for a video we are producing for them, or when they appear as the company’s representative in the media.
The following are some tips for successful body language communication that will help you not only effectively share the message you want, but will eliminate distracting behavior and habits that can detract from the important words you are saying:
1. Make A Confident Entrance
The truth is, your interview starts before you have ever opened your mouth. Viewers will be watching you from the moment you enter the room or stage. Making a good first impression is critical, because it tells viewers the interviewee’s level of confidence and, sometimes, their amount of preparation. Be careful to be confident rather than cocky, however. Cockiness is very off-putting to many people and audiences.
2. Practice Good Eye Contact
Maintaining good eye contact throughout an interview communicates to the inquisitor and the audience that you are listening, paying attention to the conversation and are engaged in what is happening. Wandering eyes can communicate boredom, disinterest and a lack of confidence.
3. Sit Up Straight
Without being rigid and tense, sitting up straight looks more professional and more like you care about what is being asked and discussed. Slouching conveys boredom and that this conversation is low on your priority list.
4. Do Not Fidget
Tapping your foot, drumming your fingers, twirling your hair or clicking your pen are all sure ways to convey discomfort and show the interviewer and audience that you lack confidence in this setting. Sitting in a relaxed manner instead will put everyone at ease, make you more trustworthy and be far less annoying to everyone around you.
5. Smile Genuinely
Smiling can be a good way to put people at ease – but make sure your smile matches the rest of your body language. A big grin coupled with stiff posture will be confusing and disingenuous to an interviewer and those watching. Make sure that your smile is given at appropriate times. Flashing a big grin during a somber portion of an interview will be confusing to anyone watching. Likewise, failing to smile or laugh during a humorous or upbeat segment can be offensive or make you seem disconnected as an interviewee.
While there are certainly other aspects of body language worth exploring, these tips are certain to help you be successful as you prepare for your next interview or on-camera experience.