Watching a dynamic speaker is a delight. Every word is essential to the message, and every movement is crafted to enhance and demonstrate the meaning. Watching them, we receive the precise meaning both audibly and visually.

Now, there is no denying some people are born graceful, their body language is smooth and their gestures are purposeful and precise. But for the rest of us, when we get up to speak in public there is the ever constant question “What on earth do we do with these wooden appendages that used to be our arms?”

You know the silly thing is that everyone of us can, and do, use gestures effortlessly if we are sitting with our friends in the coffee house. With a latte in one hand, the other is at work to convey exact emphasis to what we are saying. It is a natural as breathing, so why can’t we do that when we are speaking in public and facing our audience? One awkward and frustrated participant in our one day Public Speaking Seminar asked exasperatedly “Why can’t I just stand here with my hands in my pockets?” Indeed, why not?

In 1971 a psychology researcher, Albert Mehrabian, (currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA) highlighted the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages. His findings on inconsistent messages of feelings and attitudes have been become known as the “7%-38%-55% Rule”.

It is important to realise that when we make a presentation or conduct an interview we are in the business of selling. It could be our product or services; it could be our ideas and opinions; or it could be ourselves as a credible source of information.

Whatever our purpose is for speaking, we need to be seen as a sincere and believable speaker. And Professor Mehrabian found that the non-verbal elements are particularly important for that perception of us. It is the body language and gestures that we use that communicates our sincerity, our conviction and our enthusiasm. And it is these feelings and attitudes that affect our audience. Surprisingly the research showed that when what we say does not agree with what we do (our gestures and body language): our audience tends to believe the body language. We are therefore judged as ‘not believable’.

However let us not be fooled, It is emphatically not the case that non-verbal elements in all senses convey the bulk of the message, though this is how his conclusions are frequently quoted in many public speaking seminars. The truth is that when delivering a lecture or presentation it is the words used, the organisation of the information, which form the bulk of the message and are delivered entirely verbally. But non-verbal cues are very important in showing the speaker’s attitude towards their words, most notably their belief or conviction.

If you doubt me, just think about the comedy show Get Smart. Close your eyes and recall when Maxwell Smart says “Missed by that much!”. Say it over to yourself, and I bet you that you either saw the action or raised your arm to copy it!

Body Language and gestures are important to convey our passion and conviction. If we lack energy and sincerity we can’t project our belief in our product, our idea or ourselves. And if we don’t seem to be enthusiastic, then why should our audience?

So back to our first question ~ “What on earth do we do with these wooden appendages that used to be our arms?”

Well, remember the coffee shop? When we are comfortable, when we feel safe we all use body language and gestures quite naturally. SO perhaps the first thing we need to do is to learn to become comfortable when public speaking. Can we do it?

Well why not ask Trischel about their one-day course on Public Speaking and learn the tricks used by professionals to overcome their nerves. Contact us about the dates of our next public seminar; or why not consider a One-On-One coaching session? Either way, you would be taking a vital step in improving your ability to communicate your message with meaning.


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