When you prepare to meet with a client, you probably spend the majority of your time perfecting the content of that meeting. You might write up a formal report, make yourself some notes, and practice your pitch. For all this preparation, though, you’re likely overlooking one crucial part of getting your message across: nonverbal communication.
What is nonverbal communication?
Nonverbal communication is essentially everything that goes into communication aside from speech and other vocal cues (like tone and volume). Nonverbal elements are crucial to getting your message across effectively – some studies suggest that up to 55% of communication is nonverbal, which means your words may carry less weight than you think. (For reference, the same studies show that vocal cues account for 38% of communication, and verbal just 7%.)
Now, this doesn’t mean that your words don’t matter – they do! This just means that, when presented with a conflicted message (the words and the visuals say different things), people will usually default to the visual or nonverbal message. If you’re praising an employee for their stellar performance, but you’re standing over them with your arms crossed while they sit at their desk, they might interpret the message differently.
There are many different types of nonverbal communication cues, and they all play a factor in how your message is perceived and understood. Here are just a few of them:
- Body language, including position, movement, and posture
- Eye contact (or lack thereof)
- Proximity to and physical contact with your audience
- Facial expression
Most of these are things you might not even be aware of in the moment. You may inadvertently make a face, or you might gesture a lot (or not at all!) without thinking about it. But to communicate more effectively, it is imperative that you learn to not only be aware of these factors, but master them, too.
How to Use Nonverbal Communication in Your Practice
One good way to start becoming more aware of the nonverbal cues you present is to watch yourself as you speak. You can speak into a mirror or record yourself. As you speak, make note of your facial expression, gestures, and how you’re standing. Are you slouching? Leaning? Do you have any nervous tics, like shuffling your hands or bouncing from foot to foot? These things can be distracting and give your audience the wrong impression.
In meeting with clients (or presentations), try to pay attention to how you position your body. It may be beneficial to have someone else, like an employee or spouse, sit in so they can watch and make note of how you present yourself while you focus on the client. Pay attention to the person you’re speaking with as well, as their body language can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling about what you’re saying. You can use these clues to adjust your presentation accordingly. And remember: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Two Final Tips
The best pieces of advice we can offer are also the simplest – smile and be confident! Feeling positive and acting positive can influence your audience in subtle ways. That’s why positivity is one of our core values at Impact: We believe that there is no obstacle a positive outlook can’t overcome.
When you feel confident, it shows. If you believe in what you’re saying and doing, your clients will sense that, and they’ll be more likely to trust you.
There’s a lot more to nonverbal communication than can be covered in a single blog post. At our upcoming women’s event, Lift, executive communications coach and author Kelly Decker will be presenting all about the power of communication – nonverbal and otherwise.
Effective communication is a vital part of relationships, and being able to do it well could mean the difference between closing the deal and turning a prospect off forever.1100360-0221