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Chapter 16: Positive Body Language

Overview

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say; l just watch what they do.

—Andrew Carnegie

Although power language can make people notice your words, body language affects your presentation the moment you come into view. Have you ever heard a speaker cover an important topic that was of interest to you, but the style of presentation was so sloppy that you just didn't quite believe what he or she was saying? If your body language is not synchronized with your words, your message will not be clear; people will believe your body language, not your spoken message.

We are a visual society; people start to make judgments based on your body language the moment they see you. No words can convey confidence—or lack of it—as quickly as body language does, and it takes many brilliant words to change poor impressions made by your nonverbal signals. Effective speakers know they must not only master their verbal presentation, but also make their nonverbal communication work for them in a positive way.

Albert Mehrabian has said that we are perceived three ways: 55 percent visually, 38 percent vocally, and 7 percent verbally. Audiences are making their hard-to-shake first impressions as you are setting up, waiting to be introduced, and walking to the platform to begin your speech. In short, you are your own best visual aid—or your worst.

Most negative body language is a result of nervousness or lack of preparation. If you are well prepared, the audience will sense it, and your own movements will be far more reassuring than those of the person who doesn't even know how to locate the switch on the overhead projector. And as Chapter 2 noted about fear, a lot of nervousness can be eliminated if you realize audiences want to enjoy themselves; meet them halfway with positive instead of distracting body language and the verbal part of your speech will go that much better.


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