Richard John checks our vital V signs
Many of you will be familiar with the (oft-misquoted) work of Albert Mehrabian, who gave us the ‘Visual, Vocal, Verbal’ model of communication so beloved by trainers.
It’s still essentially sound, but Noah Zandan, of Quantified Communications, commissioned a team of data scientists to review more than 100,000 presentations from corporate executives, politicians, and keynote speakers, looking at a host of variables that also made a difference in communication, including persuasiveness, confidence, warmth, and clarity. The result was to offer a fourth V, ‘Vital’: those elements which will really make a difference.
It’s a comprehensive piece of work, so thank the Lord you have me to give you this summary for your next presentation.
Firstly, your choice of words matter. Zandan discovered that the language used in corporate earnings calls affects up to 2.5% of stock price movement. Those can be big numbers. The advice? Use appropriate words for the audience, avoid jargon, and speak clearly and concisely; succinct messages are more memorable. It seems that word structures that might appeal in writing can actually confuse us when we just listen to them.
Then there’s the vocal element; think volume, rate, and pitch. Just a 10% increase in vocal variety can greatly increase the audience’s retention, which, frankly, is what it’s all about. And eliminate those ‘ums’ and ‘errs’; it’s not difficult. Just shut your mouth unless words are coming out of it.
And, as over 80% of learning is estimated to come visually, master the ol’ non-verbal communication. How you stand, look at your audience, move your eyes, touch yourself (seriously), the gestures you make, all send out messages about your abilities. When you’re on stage, you need to look like you belong there, which means confidence that sits just the right side of arrogance. Level hips and spread feet create a sense of balance that impresses the audience but will also make the Speaker feel more confident.
So engaging an audience is important; we’ve all heard about the need for eye contact, but many presenters will pay lip service to this, sweeping the audience like a lighthouse.
It’s all about being ‘authentic’; Zandan’s research suggests speakers deemed authentic are seen as 1.3 times more trustworthy and persuasive.
All those things should also help speakers generate passion, which often underpins the idea of sincerity and authenticity. If you don’t feel it, how can you expect your audience to?
Zandan suggests that this can partly be achieved by telling stories, rather than presenting turgid statistics.
So, there you have it, a fourth V to add to the ones we already knew about. Always good to keep an eye on your vital signs!