George Bernard Shaw proposes an interesting point: how do we ensure that our audience truly understands what we are saying when we speak?
Effective communication relies on more than just the words you say; it uses your whole body, breath and voice.
Being aware of how you present yourself physically at work is a valuable tool. Your presence controls how your message is received by an audience, the connection you create and your success at building relationships, rapport and influence.
Here, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in Business tutors Sheelagh McNamara and Sandie Miller offer five tips on how you can apply actors' skills in audience engagement to your working life.
1. Use your body to make a first impression
People naturally form a first impression very quickly so it is important that your body language reflects the real message you want to send instantly. Take your time as you enter the room and don't start speaking until you have decided where you want to stand. Make sure you walk into the room with a positive attitude.
2. Stand or sit as if you own your space
Think of a thin cotton thread that runs from the crown of your head to the ceiling. Think of your feet making a connection with the ground. This will help you feel rooted, which inspires confidence and relaxation for both you and your audience. You want to be able to sit, stand or walk as if you own the space you are in to make a powerful impression on your audience.
3. Make the most of your voice
Our voice says so much about us and is our primary method of communication, so it must be powerful, flexible and confident. Ensure you have enough breath to support your voice comfortably, finish your sentences to a full stop and speak at a volume that will be heard easily at the back of the room. Try to take a slight pause at the end of your sentence. This will allow the audience to catch up with what you're saying and absorb your key points.
4. Be expressive
Let your gestures be more expansive. It will immediately reflect in your voice. Use varied vocal tones, animate your face and make meaningful eye contact. Don't stare but connect with people genuinely. Eye contact also helps us to assess whether we are being understood. Do we need to expand on what we're saying or move on quickly? Remember the people sitting on either side of you are the hardest to connect with.
5. Smile and listen well
The moments between words are just as important, and by smiling you will release tension in yourself and those around you. Use the time you are listening to relax and absorb what the person is saying to make the exchange as positive and mutually valuable as possible.