Thursday, February 13, 2014

Your Nonverbal Delivery

Your delivery has two components: what you say, and everything else. That everything else is your nonverbal delivery, and it is every bit as important as what you say. There are several components to your nonverbal delivery. Lets look at them individually.

Your appearance is vitally important. So important that I wrote an entire blog devoted to it. You can read that here. How we dress and adorn ourselves sends a message and we have to be thoughtful as to what kind of message we want to send. It will be interpreted by the audience, the only question is how they will interpret it. Are they inclined to be open minded about dress? Do you care? One thing is for sure, being totally out of place in your attire will be noticed and runs the risk of making you feel self-conscious. Dress in a manner that makes you feel good about yourself, is comfortable, and will not detract from your message or reputation.

Eye Contact is essential to your communication. The eyes have tremendous expressive power. Old sayings like "The eyes are the windows of the soul" attest to the magnitude of what we encounter in the eyes of another. In our culture we often equate eye contact with honesty, and its absence an indicator of deception.

As audience members, when the speaker does not look at us it send all the wrong messages. For starters, when someone doesn't look at me while talking, it feels like he is not talking to me, or I am invisible. And if he is not talking to me, I have no obligation to listen. I have seen numerous students and even colleagues engage in non-listening behavior like texting or grading papers, during speeches--extremely poor listening behavior. I suspect they felt emboldened to do this because they felt invisible or lost within the crowd.

Eye contact connects you to your audience in a meaningful way. Perhaps most importantly it allows the speaker to read the feedback the audience is providing. The tell-tale signs of engagement include reciprocated eye contact, nodding, smiling or something other than a blank expression. When you read feedback it allows you to make the necessary adjustments to what you are saying and how you are saying it so that you keep them engaged.

One of the most frequent questions speaker's have is regarding gestures. "What do I do with my hands"? I have written an entire blog on this and encourage you to read it. Rather than repeat what I have already written, I will simply encourage you to keep your gestures natural and non-distracting, If I am noticing your gestures, I'm probably being distracted from your verbal message.

Your stance is something worth mentioning. You should keep both feet planted firmly on the floor, no "dancing". If you have the frequent habit of rocking side to side, try pulling your feet together and pointing your toes toward the audience. It is almost impossible to rock or sway when you do this.

Movement is another factor in your physical delivery. There are two frequent practices here. The first is to move "when the spirit moves you". While this can be effective and natural, there is the risk of your movements being totally random and not supporting your message as strongly as it could. The other is what I call transitional movement. This involves moving while you transition from one main point to the next. When you say "Now that I have covered X, let's move on to Y", you move as you say that line. In this way you nonverbally support the structure of the speech. One thing you definitely want to avoid is constant movement. It makes you look nervous, does not support your message, and can tire the audience out!

Another big aspect of your nonverbal delivery is the use of visual aids. For an extended coverage of this topic I refer you to "Powerpoint is Satan",  and "Using PowerPoint Effectively, or Keeping Satan at Bay", two of my early blogs.

That's all for today. Be well, speak well, and as always, thanks for reading!

If you would like to learn more about Dan Leyes' consulting work, see Semiosphere Consulting.