When we prepare any presentation or performance, we tend to spend the bulk of our time on what we say. However, our words may play only a small role in how well the meaning of our message is understood.
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a research pioneer in nonverbal communication, 55 percent of the meaning of our spoken message is translated nonverbally. Our tone of voice carries an additional 38 percent, while our actual words only convey a paltry 7 percent of the meaning.1
Knowing what our body language is saying is crucial, especially if it might be at odds with our oratory. On camera, our bodies speak loud and clear, often without our even realizing it, and that's why it is imperative to understand how to keep our nonverbal communication in sync with our verbal.
In the movie Talledega Nights, Ricky Bobby, a character played by Will Ferrell, is being interviewed after a race. He asks the reporter, “What do I do with my hands?” He's told to just keep them at his sides. During the course of the interview, though, his hands seem to float into the shot as if they were two foreign bodies with minds of their own.
This was done for comedic effect, but there's a kernel of truth in that bit. When the record light goes on, you can suddenly become hyperaware of your physical self and start asking yourself: how should I stand, should I stay in one place, and, of course, what ...