There has been a lot of research about how much of the meaning of any communication has got to do with the words that you say and there are differing opinions as to what the percentage is but a study I came across recently shows just how important it is to match your non-verbal communication to your message.
Dustin York, an assistant professor at Maryville University carried out an experiment with 80 students in four identical university classes to investigate the impact of non-verbal communication on the ability of the audience to recall information.
Each class had a guest presenter who delivered word for word exactly the same presentation, using exactly the same PowerPoint for exactly the same length of time.
The only difference was in the non- verbal communication and he focused on 5 specific factors and behaviours:
1. Eye contact.
The effective nonverbal presenter aimed to make eye contact with each and every student during the presentation.
The poor nonverbal presenter looked at the PowerPoint and rarely glanced at the students.
2. Voice fluctuation.
The effective nonverbal presenter varied his vocal pattern throughout the presentation.
The poor nonverbal presenter kept a moderately monotonous vocal range.
3.Position in the room.
The effective non verbal presenter used a remote clicker for changing the PowerPoint slides and walked around the front of the room.
The poor nonverbal presenter stood behind a podium and used the desktop computer mouse to navigate the PowerPoint.
4. Facial expressions.
The effective nonverbal presenter used a variety of enthusiastic facial expressions.
The poor nonverbal presenter kept a moderately flat and unchanging expression.
5. Hand gestures.
The effective nonverbal presenter continually showed the palms of his hands during gestures.
The poor nonverbal presenter kept his hands on the surface of the podium.
Following the presentation, each class took the same test, which questioned them about the information they were just given.
The effective nonverbal communication courses scored almost 30 % higher on the test than students in the poor nonverbal communication courses.
Following the presentations the students had the following to say about their experience…..
Effective nonverbal communication class:
“If he didn’t look like he knows what he’s talking about, then I wouldn’t trust him or listen to him.”
“(Presenters’) body language in general can definitely tell you a lot about their knowledge about the subject.”
“Sometimes when (presenters) are speaking, I just won’t pay attention because I am bored, but I paid attention to this one.”
Poor nonverbal communication class:
“He just had random facts. I just didn’t really know where he got those from.”
“I got distracted easily with doodling on my paper. I listened to the first half, but I don’t remember anything from the second half.”
“I kind of wandered off. I tried focusing on the PowerPoint, but that was bad, too.”
This was from experiencing exactly the same, identical presentation.
So, next time you’re presenting remember you’re saying just as much with your body as you are with your mouth and you could be messing up your message without even knowing about it….
Until next time,
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You can read more about how to improve your non-verbal communication in the following posts :