The art of body language

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When we sit down with our clients for on-camera media training, there’s one thing we always stress: the importance of body language. In fact, 80 per cent of what you communicate is non-verbal, and being able to properly use body language to deliver your message can be quite powerful.

Take, for example, the clap heard around the world at the recent State of the Union address by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She knew exactly what she was doing, and given she was seated right behind President Donald Trump, the camera was always on her.

It doesn’t take a body language expert to ascertain that Pelosi’s claps were clearly sarcastic, and they quickly became an internet sensation. Pelosi also used a stack of papers, likely a transcript of Trump’s speech, as a strategic prop as if to see if he was sticking to the script, suggesting skepticism. Coupled with her well-timed eye rolls and looks to particular people in the audience, she managed to tell America and everyone else exactly what she was thinking without saying a single word.

It wasn’t just Pelosi’s body language sending messages that night. Democratic women wore white to the State of the Union to show solidarity with the suffrage movement. While it was no surprise to see Democrats decked out in white, Trump’s daughter, Tiffany, also wore white.

Whether she was in on it we don’t know, but many in the Twitterverse viewed it as a subtle rebuke to her father.

The internet also erupted with speculation about Trump’s crooked tie. It took the president some 15 minutes to straighten it out, as those watching on social media mocked him — proof positive that something as simple as a necktie in disarray can distract people from your core message.

While politics can sometimes amplify the significance of body language, it is equally important in the business world. That why it’s imperative that executives know how to properly conduct themselves in a public setting, especially when engaging with the media.

Projecting a desired message non-verbally can make a major impact, especially in a broadcast setting. On the flip side, it’s important to be cognizant of potential pitfalls with body language. An ill-timed sigh or eye roll during an on-air interview, for example, is rarely a good move.

At Provident, clients often come to us because they’ve got a great story and want to ensure they are telling it in an engaging manner that resonates with their audience. That’s why our media training programs not only prepare clients for interviews with the media, but also help them utilize those skills in both newsrooms and boardrooms to become much more effective and confident communicators overall.

Image can be everything for a business when it’s trying to raise its profile or grapple with a crisis, and even the slightest miscue — including a body language fumble — can derail your message if you’re not prepared.