Communicating Without Words

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"Words account for only 7% of all communication."

That’s one data point that has been kicking around forever. The translation is simple: your personal brand is screaming so loud that people can hardly hear a word that you are saying. As someone who gets to present to small, medium and large-sized audiences all over the world, I pick up a trick or two by watching myself present, by watching others speak and by reading and studying the craft of public speaking and storytelling. The differences between what makes a good presenter and a great presenter are – more often than not – slight nuances. An example of that will be: certain speakers think that by putting their hands in their pocket or that leaning on a lectern, it gives off the impression to the audience that they are relaxed and calm. In fact, these non-verbal postures give off the impression of being lazy, unsure and even hiding something to an audience.

Hard to believe?

It’s true think about how you feel about the body language of someone the next time they are presenting. It’s amazing how many inputs we humans take in (and how insignificant the words actually are). In this recently posted TED Talk, Amy Cuddy (an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School), dissects the power of posture and our body language. It’s something that I have been thinking a lot about recently. I spend a lot of time hunched over a laptop or sitting in a plane or in an airport lounge. None of those positions foster a good posture and, I’m convinced, it’s affecting my overall health.

It turns out that your body language also shapes who you are (not just how others feel about you, but how you feel about yourself)…

As marketers, if we’re not great presenters and presenting ourselves in the best possible way, all is lost.


  1. When talking to others about body language it is really important to be congruent.
    It is interesting in the clip what Amy’s own body language is saying.
    There are many gestures that are obviously uncontrolled (hands behind her back, hands going over and over)
    and the messages are mixed which can be distracting for the audience.
    She uses what I call ” boob juggling”- hands going up and down at chest level which can
    be dis-empowering for how women are perceived.
    I advise all of my clients to video themselves before they deliver a presentation to
    identify their unconscious communication to make sure that it is aligned.

  2. Wow, this is really a great information. I know we can use imagination to create a new neuron path to influence our mind to influence the outcome. I would like to know how this thing link to our neurons.

  3. Cath – couldn’t agree more. Having trained thousands and thousands of folks – presenting as best you can, can be learned. For the most part folks truly believe they are fabulous at presenting. But they really are not. Most are dismal. They are probably in a field where being the best presenter is like being the tallest of the 7 Dwarfs.
    I see hundreds of presentations each year – and cannot remember the last one that really worked for the person. Got the results they desired. Being a professional presenter is not an art. It is a learned skill. No one I have ever seen has done it naturally.

  4. Mitch, this is a great thing to ponder. I’ve only spoken at a few events and am wondering how to improve my talents. My next step is to watch a recording of myself in action like Cath suggested.
    I regularly watch presentations from the top digital agencies and am amazed by how rough some are. There seems to be no correlation between agency success and presentation ability.

  5. I have degenerative disc disease and have had two spinal fusions, so I HAVE to have good posture. The one good by-product of my disease is that it does change how I hold my body, which, in turn, does change how people interact with me…for the better.
    In addition to sitting very upright, I also frequently stand in meetings and walk around sometimes. I also tend to sit with my arms up and hands behind my head (I do it to relieve some pressure on my neck, but have also read that this is considered a “power stance” and is something women rarely ever do.)
    As a result, clients frequently tell me, “wow, you really know your stuff,” or “we trust you,” even when I’m not always feeling all that confident about what we’re discussing.
    And you’re right. You should work on your posture now so you don’t end up in my position when you’re old and start officially falling apart. 🙂

  6. Mitch, a great piece of insight that is often forgotten in today’s social media world. After all, how many times have been impressed by an individuals thoughts online to then feel a sense of let down when we meet them face-to-face. Views online must be considered setting the scene before we ‘seal-the-deal’ in a real-world setting.

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