Most will agree that effective communication is much more than the words alone. While the formula that claims words on their own account for only 8% of the effect – with body language at 55%, expression/tone 35% – is disputed, the general principle holds. Body language matters!
The recent 3 part BBC2 series on The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler was a reminder that part of his undeniable impact as an orator was his remarkable body language. The stacccato rhetoric was combined with the savage chopping gestures of a martial arts exponent smashing bricks with bare hands. Powerful visual impact, brutal, effective and ugly.
By way of complete (!) contrast, look at Graham Norton. One of the most popular and talented performers on television, with a razor sharp wit. But what sets him apart and lifts his audience (and his ratings) is his exuberant body language. He races across stage to greet guests, leaps into the audience or lolls dramatically from his chair. Exaggerated, engaging and good.
You will find bad body language in evidence in too many pitches and presentations. People whose gestures and expression are lively in everyday conversation assume stilted and restrained behavior. Some of this is down to nerves but much of it is brought on by fear of forgetting the words, the not-so-important words. Content winning out over performance.)
You don’t have to be an Adolf or a Graham, but rehearsing to an audience -one person will do- asking for critique on your body language will help you find your natural, expressive good self!