Did you know that people form an impression about you in only four seconds, according to an article on NBC’s Today.com?
Scary thought, isn’t it? Particularly if the people who are forming that impression are the ones who might hire you, promote you, recommend you, or fund your big project.
One of the biggest components of that first, four-second impression is your body language. Yes, there are people who study it and can tell you what every little fidget or twitch indicates about your state of mind. But the rest of us are aware too, just not as consciously.
It's likely that you don't consciously notice the difference between a woman who walks into the room with shoulders slouched, eyes down, twirling a lock of her hair, and slithering self-consciously into a chair -- or the one who strides in confidently, making eye contact, shoulders back, posture straight, and offers her hand in greeting.
You may not consciously notice the specific nuances of their body language that sets them apart, perhaps — but the subconscious impression you form takes all those details into consideration ... and more -- much more. The same is true of the conscious or subconscious impression others form of your body language.
Have you ever had any of these three thoughts?
“There’s something about that guy I just don’t trust.”
Well, it could be the fact that he keeps touching his face, which, according to body language expert Eliot Hoppe, signifies deceit or insincerity. Refusal to make eye contact also leads to this untrustworthy impression.
“He just feels arrogant to me.”
It could be that he’s wearing power colors such as yellow or red -- or, standing with his hands on hips, or pointing at you.
“He seems nervous.”
There are many things that would give this impression, from standing with arms crossed over one’s chest to touching one’s neck to inappropriate laughing.
Now, don’t get paranoid. (Because that will probably show up in your body language, too!)
Body language is just as important when you are making a presentation as it is when you are walking into a job interview. You’ve already got the job, but you want to keep it and advance up the corporate ladder.
Here are four body language pointers for presenters to remember:
- Don’t cross your arms/fidget. As I already mentioned, crossing your arms can make you look nervous, closed, defensive, or even angry. And as usual, mom was right when she said, “stop fidgeting.” That goes for fidgeting with your phone, too.
- Use gestures to emphasize points, but don’t flail your arms around. I saw a former colleague in a parking lot the other day, from a distance. At first I wasn’t sure if it was him, but as soon as he began waving his arms around at the person he was talking to, I knew. Be remembered for something else. Don’t turn yourself into a caricature.
- The most effective speaking stance is a slight forward lean, not swaying back and forth or bouncing on your feet. That’s distracting to your audience, and will give the appearance of nervousness -- so, even if you are nervous, try to stay still.
- Nodding to emphasize a point helps you make a connection with your audience. This is also true of making eye contact, and using storytelling. The more they are connected, the more your audience members will be able to hear and retain what you’re saying.
For more pointers on using effective body language to ace your next presentation, check out my book Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport: How to Create and Deliver Presentations that Make People Sit Up, Take Notice, and Beg for More!