This article could easily read “how to close a sale with your body” because in a way most of what we do in our lives and careers is a process of selling. Selling an idea, selling a concept, even selling yourself. From convincing your partner why you should spend money on a new gadget, getting a work colleague enthused about an idea you’ve had to improve process or even attending a job interview, though no money is involved, it is all still about selling and how to convince your audience.
“I speak two languages, Body and English.”
– Mae West
The Art of Selling
My second job at the tender age of 17 was selling encyclopedias door to door. This was cold calling during the evening and I only lasted a week. It was a horrible job, however the week training before I was set loose to start knocking on stranger’s doors has stayed with me ever since. I was stunned by how people could be manipulated into doing something they really didn’t want (ie, spend a lot of money on something they weren’t even looking to buy). It wasn’t for me, however there are a few things I learned from that training that proved to be very handy in life and in work.
Before I go on, I’d like to address a word from the previous paragraph: “manipulate”. After delivering a workshop on how to use body language to improve presentation skills, a student asked if preparing your body language wasn’t somewhat manipulative of the audience. I had to think before answering because I hadn’t thought of it this way before.
Eventually I replied that yes, you are trying to manipulate the audience but no less than you are with the words you prepare. Persuade would be a better word, or cajole, or entice or coax, you get the idea. The bottom line is that in most of our communications with others, we are trying to get those others to see and agree with our views and opinions. It boils down to trying to convince your audience.
“Emotion always has its roots in the unconscious and manifests itself in the body.”
– Irene Claremont de Castillejo
7 Tips to Convince Your Audience With Your Body
So, with that preamble in mind here are some hints to help you convince your audience with your body. Also, be mindful that I am a strong believer that we all possess these skills naturally. They just need a nudge sometimes to move from our subconscious mind to our conscious mind:
There is a whole heap of information out there on what to look out for when someone is being receptive to you or not, for example, crossed arms, not making eye contact, touching their face, etc. I won’t go too much into to it here, suffice to say, observe and trust your instincts. Just by being attentive you should have a fairly good idea how well you are doing. Just make sure you are observing (not, for instance, worrying about how you look to them).
This goes hand in hand with observing. However, there are a couple of things you can do with your body to let your audience know that you are hearing them. Make regular eye contact, tilt your head, let them finish speaking and wait a few seconds before replying.
3. Matching their body language
A classic flirting technique. Sometimes, by simply mirroring someone, without being too obvious, will have the effect of making you appear more empathetic to what they are saying.
4. Showing Enthusiasm
Hugely important for presentations and/or job interviews. Be enthusiastic about what you are saying. That doesn’t mean you need to “feel” enthusiastic. If it is a presentation or job interview you are most likely too occupied feeling other things (like nervous). However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t show enthusiasm for what you are talking about. It is also one of the most infectious emotions, so by committing (or at first faking) enough enthusiasm you will inevitably infect your audience.
“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”
– Jim Rohn
5. Opening Yourself
When we are uncertain, intimidated, nervous or afraid we instinctively “close down” our bodies. Crossed arms and legs, head bent, toes pointed slightly in, you get the picture. This will give the impression that you are uncertain at the least or dishonest at the worst. By consciously opening your body, (arms out, palms open, head up, etc) you will appear at ease and honest.
6. Not being afraid of silences
Once again you need to go against instinct if you are in a stressful situation. The instinct is to fill silences and speed up, instead you need to focus on slowing down and allowing silences. I will often open a presentation with a silence (after introducing myself of course). It demonstrates that I am comfortable in front of the audience and confident in what I’m about to say (even if I am quietly freaking out inside).
“Not only is her body language revealing, but so are her silences, which I find remarkable for an actress. It’s how she doesn’t say things verbally that I find exceedingly communicative.”
– Laurence Kardish
7. Getting help
Bit of a theme here for the end of my articles, however the best thing you can do to improve your body language is to get expert advice.
About the Authors
Lisa Peers is the Founder and CEO of Peers and Players. Matt Stewart is a professional actor and project manager at Peers and Players. If you’d like to know more about how corporate actors can enhance your workplace training check out Peers and Players Services.