By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we said it is a reality that appropriate facial expressions are an important part of effective communication. We said according to Laskowski, inappropriate expressions include distracting mannerisms or unconscious expressions not rooted in your feelings, attitudes and emotions. We stressed that in much the same way that some speakers perform random, distracting gestures and body movements, nervous speakers often release excess energy and tension by unconsciously moving their facial muscles.
We said research shows that involuntary frowning constitutes one type of unconscious facial movement which is less apt to be read clearly by the audience. We explained that it manifests when a speaker attempts to deliver a memorised speech. As regards eye contact, we explained that it is the cement that binds together speakers and their audiences.
We explained that it is equally noteworthy that eye contact can also help you overcome nervousness by making your audience a known quantity. We examined the sub-concept of effective eye communication halfway.
Effective eye communication
- Establishing a personal connection with listeners. You achieve this by selecting one person and talking to him or her personally. Maintain eye contact with that person long enough to establish a visual bond (about 5 to 10 seconds). This is usually the equivalent of a sentence or a thought. Then shift your gaze to another person. In a small group, this is relatively easy to do. However, if you are addressing hundreds or thousands of people, it is impossible. What you can do is to segment the large audience into groups and maintain eye contact with people in each group together though with a touch of specific gaze on one or two individuals in each section of the hall and establish personal bonds with them. Then each listener will get the impression you are talking directly to him or her.
- Monitoring visual feedback. While you are talking, your listeners are responding with their own non-verbal messages. Therefore, use your eyes to actively find out this valuable feedback. If individuals are not looking at you, they may not be listening either. Their reasons may include one or more of these factors:
One, they may not be able to hear you. The solution is that if you are not using a microphone, speak aloud and note if that works. Another reason may be boredom. If this is the case, use some humour, increase your vocal variety or add powerful gestures or body movements. They may also be puzzled. In this case, you repeat and/or rephrase what you have just said.
Lenny Laskowski, an international professional speaker and the author of “No Sweat Presentations – The Painless Way to Successful Speaking” and many other publications says if they seem to be fidgeting nervously, then, it may be that you are using distracting mannerisms. Ensure you are aware of these embarrassing possibilities before and during your speech. If necessary, try to correct them without bringing more attention to them. On the other hand, if your listeners’ faces indicate pleasure, interest and close attention, do not change anything because it indicates you are doing a great job.
If your listeners will have on suits and dresses, wear your best suit or dress – the outfit that brings you the most compliments. Ensure that every item of clothing is clean and well-tailored. Do not wear jewellery that may glitter or jingle when you move or gesticulate. This may divert attention from your speech. For the same reason, empty your pockets of bulky items and anything that makes noise when you move.
Part of the first impression you give occurs even before you are introduced to deliver your speech. As the audience members arrive, your preparation should be concluded. You should not study your speech again. Instead, mingle with the audience and project that same friendly, confident attitude that will make your speech a success.
Accordig to Laskowski, when you speak, especially if you are not well known to the audience, the most crucial part of your presentation is the first few minutes. During that initial segment, the audience will be making critical judgements about you. Your listeners will decide whether you are confident, sincere, friendly, eager to address them and worthy of their attention. In large measure, they will base this decision on what they see. After your introduction, walk purposefully and confidently to the speaking position.
What is the essence of movement? Movement forces people to focus and follow you. The way you walk from your seat to the speaker’s position is very important. When you are introduced, you should appear eager to speak. Too many speakers look as though they are being forced to speak, they are totally psychologically detached.
Walk confidently from your seat to the lectern. Pause there for a few seconds, then move out from behind the lectern. It is wise to use the lectern as a point of departure and not a barrier to hide behind.
Smile before you say your first words. Be careful not to stand too close to or move beyond the people in the front row. Be careful not to walk too much. Doing so will work against you. Continuous pacing is distracting. Walking can be an effective way to stress an important idea. It is essential that your movement be purposeful and intentional, not just a random shift of position. Taking about three usually works best.
When using visual aids, use three positions. One position is your “home” position and should be front and center. The other two positions should be relatively near the “home” position. Never stand in front of any visual aid. When you practise your speaking, ensure you also practise your walking patterns. Try to walk to and from your three positions. These positions should be planned just as your hand gestures are.
When standing still, remember to maintain good posture. Stand up straight. Remember it is not what you say but how you say it and your body speaks very loudly. It is only when you effectively combine your verbal and nonverbal messages that you can establish respectable presence.
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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