By Rui Veras

According to the experts in body language, seven seconds is how long it takes to make a first impression. And we all hear that first impressions are most important. This is especially true for communication professionals and those around them – whom they usually have to coach. Thought-leadership is often the result of good teamwork between communication professionals and subject matter experts. These experts are often not communicators, and this is where we can save the day.

When one wants to communicate effectively, it is important to be authentic. Contextualising and believing in one’s message, is key. Pay attention to tone, have a clear, simple and purposeful message. Above all, believe in yourself. You know what you have to say – speak from the heart.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, most of our interactions happen online. But the production of content, namely video content where an expert explains complex issues, is as relevant as ever. In the world of social media, the first seven seconds for a first impression, get reduced to three – at least for keeping the watcher’s attention span. While there are other factors at play for what concerns social media. Today let us focus on body language.

    1. Think of your attitude:
      • Friendly;
      • Happy;
      • Receptive;
      • Helpful;
      • Curious.
    2. Check your posture – shoulders back.
    3. Smile, be friendly and approachable.
    4. Look right into the camera when you talk, this way you ensure eye contact. Speacially when you want to make a point.
    5. Do not read from a screen, it is disengaging. If you must read, do it from a paper you hold.
    6. Raise your eyebrows and speak naturally.
    7. Lean forward – showing engagement.

How to convey confidence

Here are two methods to reach a confident self:

1. Visualisation – tap into emotions from a success moment. For example, how did you feel when you received an award, or simply think of something that you like and makes you feel good, like eating your favourite food.

2. Power pose – in private, stand with your hands in your waits for two minutes, in a super-hero fashion. Keeping this posture will project your renewed confidence.

Your vocal tone

The way you speak is how you can lure people into your conversation and thoughts. Imagine your voice as a magical hand that can drive people’s attention to you.

1. Breathe deeply;
2. Add emotion;
3. Volume and speed;
4. Perfect pitch – lower voice tones are associated with power and authority!
5. Use pausing for comments, it is very effective.

What to do with your hands?

Use them! But mind you how. While different cultures have very different meanings for common hand signs, like for example a thumbs-up. Regulator hand signs during a conversation should be safe and engaging. For example, to break an issue into parts using your fingers. It is safer to use your hands for illustration movements, like for example pointing directions in a chart. However, avoid pacifiers, such as playing with jewellery, they will convey nervousness and lack of attention or constraint.

Finally, holding your hands together in a triangle conveys certainty. And opening your arms and hands sincerity. These are important elements to keep an audience engaged. And use these gestures, even if your hands are not visible on the screen.

When we are able to meet again

If the Covid-19 etiquette of 1,5 meters distance will ever ease, there are a few indicators of social distance to look out for. Like other animals, Humans are territorial. So, it is important to keep the right distance in the use of space. Getting too close to someone is likely to make them feel uncomfortable. However, a shortening distance during a conversation can be a positive sign.

When we will return to our offices, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind during a meeting. Do not cross your arms, this way you will look more engaged and positive. Crossed arms are a sign of disagreement. Turn towards the person speaking to make him/her feel accepted and heard. Give someone your ear, by tilting your head towards him or her. Place your feet flat in the floor. It will make you feel more grounded. Empathy and warmth and important to influence and include. Keep your phone away while listening to others, and above all, make sure you do not check it while others speak.

There are great professionals to learn more about non-verbal communication. I recommend Irina Golovanova and Carol Kinsey Goman.