Back in January of this year, I attended a youth workers conference in Indianapolis, IN. Among the several workshops I took was one on developing communication skills. The two presenters were a husband and wife team largely known in the youth workers field. For a youth workers conference, they were a lot older than the workshop enrollees; but their body language exuded confidence, experience and a sense of enjoyment in sharing what they’ve learned.
I was surprised to hear that communication is 99% body language and only 1% verbal. I’m not sure how accurate that is or what tests prove that. But during the class we engaged in several body language exercises that prove this principal.
In one exercise, each of the students in the workshop lined up against the wall. One by one, we simply walked to the podium and introduced ourselves as we were being recorded by video. We were told to simply say our name, what state we came from and our job title. We were warned that a bright spot light would be shining on us when we stood up on the podium. They encouraged us to ignore the bright light.
When it was my turn, I gave my best greeting and felt confident it stood out from everyone else’s. But, during video playback we were told that no audio would be played. The instructors wanted us to see what our body language was communicating. Very interesting observations were made. The body language of many told how the light did distract them. Some consciously or unconsciously raised their hand to shield their eyes from the light. A good amount of people used hand gestures during their greeting. A majority of people seemed unanimated, moving their lips but not their head or eyes.
When it was my turn, I was expecting a lot more than what the others presented. Instead, I too seemed unanimated. My overall body language came across as not wanting to be at the workshop, which is exactly how I felt deep inside. I was deeply disappointed at myself and wondered how many times I stood in front of people thinking I was inspirational but in reality the opposite.
Consciously, I now strive to be like the handful of animated peers in that workshop. There were about five individuals that were truly charismatic in their body language. I still remember one, stepping up to the podium and taking the mike with gusto. While looking at the camera and audience, he gestured with his head a hello by nodding his head up quickly. Everyone laughed when he did that because it truly stood out from everyone else.
Another long lasting principal I remember from the workshop, because I wrote it down of course; is that we remember the mannerisms of a speaker more than their speech. When you think of a recent sermon or presentation you heard, what do you remember? Do you remember the whole message or the way it was presented?