Non-verbal communication rule fallacy

I have abused this rule in almost all my talks! So I am guilty as charged.

You may have heard people saying what you say only contributes to a small percentage of the impact of your communication and that how a person says what they say has a far greater impact. The rule, which is and has been promoted by many speakers and trainers states that 55% of the meaning of communication is body language, 38% is in tonality, and 7% rests in the words themselves.

Where did this rule come from?

Albert Mehrabian body languageProfessor Albert Mehrabian Ph.D., of the University of California,  Los Angles (UCLA), is credited as the originator of the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule. He and his colleagues conducted two studies on communication patterns and published the studies in professional journals in 1967.

Mehrabian later discussed the results of the studies in two books in the early 1970s. The results of the studies were widely circulated in the press, in abbreviated form, leading to a misunderstanding of the original research and inaccurate generalizations of the conclusions.

Below, an article about the research conducted by Albert Mehrabian.

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Really bad Powerpoint is worse with really bad Speaking

I am by no means an expert public speaker but I am on my way to becoming one. Why do I say make this statement that sounds slightly arrogant? In fact it’s not arrogant at all it is me brimming with self-confidence because I know that I am learning and practising the basics. The fundamentals in any discipline ends up being the foundation in which your success is built on. So when it comes to public speaking and delivering presentations at conferences there are right ways of doing things and wrong ways of doing things.

The first is really being prepared. From my Toastmasters club I have learned this lesson over and over to the point where I have rather cancelled a speech than force myself to go ahead. No yes you can have courage to do something unprepared and with a little luck you may survive. The masters teach competence over courage. You will always have a slight edge to you if you are competent with a little fear than courages and ignorant about the reality of situations.

Anyway for the two days I sat through one of the worse conferences I have ever attended. I don’t really care so much about the fact that it was not well attended but more so for the fact that the speakers was really, really bad. And you have to remember that these were professionals, mostly men, with many years of business experience. And the sad fact is that most of them desperately need to be sent on presentation skills AND public speaking courses. Without naming names I will present some of the common mistakes made and some remedies for you to consider…

1. Reading off your presentation

You may as well stop right here. If you are going to read from your presentation you have already lost the audience. Why? They can read faster than you! You must know your subject so well that you only need a few keywords. And Guy Kawasaki describes the optimal font size as 30 pts in his 10/20/30 rule on Powerpoint presentations. The fact that speakers have to read off there presentation says two things: first you are not prepared and second you don’t know how to create effective slides

2. Really bad Powerpoint

This is also the name of a free ebook by Marketing legend Seth Godin. Some of the speakers had such a plethora of colours, animation and text going on it was virtually impossible to read these slides. Yes they end up looking very nice, very fancy but it serves absolutely no purpose. These slides probably take much longer to prepare as well. You must keep it short and simple. From an excellent website called Presentation Zen I recently discovered the Takahashi Method which uses ONLY REALLY BIG TEXT in his presentations.

3. So what factor?

I would blame this partially on the organisers and partially on the speakers. In marketing or communicating a message to an audience you have to tune into radio WIIFM as my friend Tony Roocroft always used to say. For those of you who don’t know WIIFM stands for “What’s In It For Me!” and this is one of the most important questions you must ask yourself, placing yourself in the shoes of the audience, before speaking. I really could care less about most of the presentations. There was no flow, nothing to connect them together.

4. Focus

Focussing on one topic, a central theme, is really important to convey your message. While many of the speakers were all over the show a few them had a really good focus. What happens with narrow focus is becomes much easier to captivate the audience’s attention. You are also able to spend more time with stories and therefore get your message across by way of analogy. Our brains are not programmed to absorb large amounts of raw date, like numbers and statistics in large amounts. In general you are better served by stories that create visual images or when speakers use word pictures.

5. Bad body language

Most of the speakers were either looking at their laptops or looking at the projector screen. Therefore they were not making any eye contact with the audience. And even though it was not a sell-out crowd there were people there who were hungry for attention. Again part of the blame must be assigned to the organisers who did not take the time to evaluate the presentations or speakers. Just because somebody is some kind of corporate executive it does not mean they are a good communicator.

In summary I am very fortunate to have been exposed to presentation skills while working at Deloitte in 1999. During a team building weekend in the Drakensberg my team won the best presentation and being the team leader who delivered the presentation brings back some awesome memories. This path that I have chosen of public speaking is part of my core genius or unique ability.


Toastmasters Body Language speech

On Tuesday evening I won the Best Preprepared Speech (2nd time) for my C&L 5 Body Language speech at my Toastmasters club. This was weird because I chose to speak about the basics of body language and the objective of the speech was to demonstrate body language.

Some of the basics that I covered were:

1. When you arrive at a new venue pause when you enter the room. Allow people to notice you. This is an extremely powerful statement especially in a bar or nightclub. You must pause for several seconds about 10 to really allow the room to become aware of you. When you do this you will experience society pressure in your subconscious. Ignore that breath and walk through the centre of the room. Whether you realise this or not you have just demonstrated using only body language to be a very confident man. Much more confident than most guys in bars and clubs. Most of the women will have noticed and be more open to speaking to you later on when you approach them. Some may even come up to you after you have positioned yourself somewhere visible.

2. When you are walking always push your shoulders back. So whenever you are out always remember to do this. You will automatically push your chest out. And this reminds me of that feeling of a gorilla clobbering it’s chest. It’s really something that gives you the best possible posture for walking and standing up. Your back will be straight and this is also healthy for your spine.

3. When you are sitting down try to take up as much space as possible. For women it’s acceptable to cross their legs but for men it’s not recommended. So when you are in a public place…say at a fancy lounge, chances are they will have sofa’s. Sit down in the middle of the sofa stretch out your arms over the back and spread your legs like you own the place. This sends a very loud and clear message of your alpha male status.

Lastly Tracey Cox is her many books on body language states the most common mistake people make in dating situations is trying to read the other person’s body language. You should instead focus on the body language signals you are sending. This is the one thing you have completely control over. So don’t forget this fundamental lesson. Focus on your own body language and your non-verbal communication will increase in impact.

Research has shown that 60% of communication is non-verbal. Another 33% is voice tone. And only seven percent, that’s 7% is the actual words we speak. And when you realise how superior women are to ready body language. As a guy this is a crucial area for all men to improve.


Treat Life like a Dance

I’ve been going for salsa class at Dance Junxion in Rosebank, Johannesburg for the last several weeks. They offer a range of dance styles from ballroom, hip-hop, Latin and Spanish dancing. This is one of the best ways to meet new people who are often single. And its a whole lot of fun. My posture, my confidence and my generally my body language has improved because of this dancing.

Now a quote from my favourite philosopher, Alan Watts: “In music though, one doesn’t make the end of a composition, the point of a composition. If that was so the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who wrote only finales…People go to concerts to hear one crashing cord, cause that’s the end…

So when dancing you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room. That’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.”

No one more thing. There’s a beautiful poem by ASJ Tessimond, Black Monday Lovesong which demonstrates what I’m talking about. So don’t sit on your ass and watch TV or DVDs. Treat life like a dance and you’ll realise every moment is like retreating or advancing.