12 nonverbal ways to improve speeches and interviews

Speaking publicly or giving a video interview, we’re careful about the words we speak, but what about a presentation’s physical aspects: gestures, eye contact, pacing? The experts weigh in.

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When Jenna Cooper was a TV anchor, her news director let her in on a key secret of how he hired his on-air staff.

He would cover up the bottom half of the candidate’s face to see whether his or her eyes told the story, says Cooper, founder and president of Gratia PR.

“If the anchor used the same eye expressions while reading a car accident script versus the proverbial water-skiing squirrel kicker, that anchor didn’t make the cut,” Cooper says.

It’s the same thing with giving a speech, shooting a video or answering questions in a town hall. The eyes tell all.

When senior leaders speak publicly or sit for an interview, they usually understand the importance of using the right words and phrases. What fewer have mastered are nonverbal tools that help in delivery—from posture to gesturing to the expression of the eyes.

Here are some tips for your senior executives:

1. Rehearse.

When leaders prepare, they should practice in order to “develop the kind of muscle memory of the speech, of the rhythm of a speech,” says Jeff Shesol, founding partner of West Wing Writers.

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