5 keys to great nonverbal communication

An experiment proves that a few differences in body language can make a huge difference in how well an audience takes in what a presenter says.

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Clear and effective communication is essential during presentations, whether for board rooms full of executives, auditoriums at conferences, or classrooms full of students.

Verbal information is vital, but how we present that information can determine how much an audience remembers. Researchers Allan and Barbara Pease found that 83 percent of communication is nonverbal, but I wanted to know what impact it had on audience recall.

I conducted an experiment with four identical university classes with a total of 80 students. Each class had a guest speaker who presented. Two of those presenters used effective nonverbal communication, while the others used poor nonverbal communication.

The interesting part was that this was more of an acting gig than a teaching gig. Each presentation was exactly the same, word for word. The PowerPoint was the same, and the presentation length was the same. The only difference was a few nonverbal tactics.

Nonverbal communication includes a number of elements, so I manipulated only five elements:

1. Eye contact. The effective nonverbal instructor tried to make eye contact with each student throughout the presentation; the poor nonverbal instructor looked at the PowerPoint and minimally glanced at the students.

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