Now you’re two-thirds of the way to being a great communicator! This next part is where it gets really mind-blowing. The fifth of the six things every great communicator does: You remember that you are in a body – your body.
Your body is what’s actually giving the presentation – it is your body that is standing before your audience, your voice speaking from your throat, your hands doing the demo.
You’ll often hear this advice about speaking: Make eye contact with people in the audience – even if it’s a very big room. Use gestures naturally (but please, not in a weird, fakey calculated way). Don’t drink 12 cups of coffee before you go onstage. Exercise the morning of, and make sure you’ve eaten. Most importantly, pause. And breathe. And rehearse. And breathe. Why?
Because everyone who tells you to be aware of your body language and facial expressions is right. If you are stuttering and unable to make eye contact from the stage, you are sending a message than speaks more loudly than the words you’re trying to say. If you’re taking questions in your all hands meeting and you either scowl or show horrified surprise when someone asks a tough question nothing you say after pulling that face will be heard.
But it goes even deeper. Janet Crawford, founder of the consulting firm Cascadance and coauthor of Leadership Embodiment: How the Way We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak says, “It appears that we . . . come equipped with specialized neurons that allow us to map the physiology of other humans in our midst. It happens outside of consciousness and informs every relationship we have.”
What this means is that our bodies and our nervous systems are speaking louder than we are. We perceive and register messages from other peoples’ bodies subconsciously. This is true from the keynote stage, across the room in a meeting or in an elevator. We all have a spidey sense that subconsciously reads whoever we’re looking at or listening to.
In practical terms, this means that while it’s great to not appear nervous, it’s even better to not actually be nervous when you’re communicating. A tall order I realize! We’ll talk about how to get there next week . . .