It's just a few minutes before you're supposed to go on stage and deliver one of the most important keynote presentations of your career. You've got your large print, double-spaced talking points in hand. Proverbial butterflies are fluttering in your stomach and your palms are more than a bit clammy.
Proverbial butterflies are fluttering in your stomach and your palms are more than a bit clammy.
Have you chosen the right words for the occasion? Will you stumble over that intelligent but phonetically challenging word (floccinaucinihilipilification, anyone?) you just had to include in your speech?
Does that scenario sound familiar? For most of us it, or a similar version of it, has probably been a part of our not-so-distant past, whether at the last board meeting or during that (required) introductory public speaking course.
More often than not, communicators are concerned with things like whether they'll remember everything they wanted to say or how many times they've uttered the word "um" in the last two minutes. Those are all valid concerns in the world of oral communication. But, not all communication is oral. "Of course not," you're saying to yourself, "there's written communication too!" Right you are. But wait, there's more!
Nonverbal communication includes everything from the gestures you make with your hands, to your facial expressions, your posture, your hair style, the clothes you choose to wear, and more.
If you've ever taken any sort of communication course, you're likely familiar with a concept known as nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes everything from the gestures you make with your hands to your facial expressions, your posture, your hair style, the clothes you choose to wear, and more.
Communication theory uses fancy words to describe these categories of nonverbal communication, such as kinesics, haptics, proxemics, and others. However, I'm less worried that you know the terminology, and more concerned that you grasp the underlying concepts.
When I'm working with clients, I try to impress upon them the importance of considering every minute and mundane detail about any given communication experience in which they are a participant.
For instance, if you're going to be interviewed on camera by your local CBS affiliate, wearing jeans and simple t-shirt (unless you're Steve Jobs) is probably a poor decision. However, if that same interview were being conducted by the local newspaper over the phone, what you're wearing during the interview couldn't matter less.
To provide another example, some people have a hard time controlling their facial reactions to unexpected events or situations. If during a business meeting someone makes a statement you disagree with and you inadvertantly squeeze your face into a sour expression, it will likely create discord between you and your colleague. Learning to manage your facial reactions is a valuable, understated skill.
I could continue to provide hypothetical anecdotes that illustrate how important the nonverbal (and unwritten) aspects of communication are. But, that could easily turn into a keynote (or class) all its own, and let's face it, you're not paying me admission (or tuition).
So, I'd like to leave you with this: don't underestimate the subtle, yet equally powerful, effect concious decisions regarding nonverbal communication can have on your various communication experiences. Be strategic not only in selecting your words, but in selecting your wardrobe, your "choreography," and all the other intricate unspoken aspects that are pertinent in any given situation.