What public speakers should know about facial expressions

We know that physical cues are a key part of any presentation, but your facial expressions are especially crucial to your success. Follow this guidance to win over your audience.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

What happens to your face when you speak in public?

A recent study rated people’s attractiveness after they demonstrated an emotion. It turns out that I will find you attractive if your emotions are easy to read. If they’re hard to read, on the other hand, I’m not going to be so ready to like you.

The finding has interesting implications for public speakers and presenters. Some speakers who, in normal conversation, are personable, friendly, open and relaxed will become emotional zombies when on stage.

What’s happening is that their fight-or-flight response to the stress of public speaking—stage fright, in other words—causes them to lose facial affect particularly, and overall demeanor in general. They become stone-faced, in short.

Further, they’re usually not aware of this shift in their behavior. When I ask someone how they think they did in terms of smiling, connecting with the audience, and generally looking conversational, they’re often convinced that they were their usual charming selves.

So, we go to the video—and they’re astonished. I don’t have to tell them; they can see it. “OMG, I look tragic!” or, “I never cracked a smile once!” are typical reactions.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.