There is so much more to communication than the spoken word. Non-verbal communication in business is very important in helping you to connect with others, express what you mean and build strong relationships. Some of the most important aspects of non-verbal communication include eye contact, your posture and the gestures you make.
Good eye contact is important as it can promote trust. Whether you are addressing a group of people or communicating with just one individual, you should try to make sure that you are “looking” at them. This is easier when you have only a small audience but can be difficult if you are making a presentation to a large group.
Good techniques for establishing eye contact with a large audience include scanning the crowd, focusing on certain areas of the audience and briefly looking at different individuals. Too much eye contact can feel intimidating, so in business communication, it is a good idea to limit eye contact with each individual to no longer than four or five seconds at a time. This can be difficult initially, but you can soon get used to limiting episodes of eye contact by practising alone and timing yourself. Make sure that you focus on people from all of the different parts of the audience.
It may not be immediately obvious that posture is an important facet of business communication, but it can tell other people a lot about you. Standing with feet apart, your back straight and your head up gives the impression of confidence and authority. An upright posture also helps you to breathe more easily so that you will feel less nervous.
In contrast, looking down with slumped shoulders and your feet together will give others the impression that you are not confident, making it difficult for them to have confidence in you. Practising adopting a strong and confident posture at home in front of a mirror will make it easier in business situations.
Another aspect of posture includes honesty. If you believe in the product or service you are trying to promote, your audience will be able to detect your honesty through your posture. If, on the other hand, you are simply following a script and have no real commitment to what you are saying, your posture will also give this away.
Whether we are chatting in a social situation or at a business meeting, most of us use hand or facial gestures to emphasise what we are saying or to make describing something easier. These non-verbal cues help others to understand us, but sometimes in business communication nerves make us freeze and we do not use gestures as freely as we should. If you find that the situation causes you to stop making natural arm or hand gestures or using facial expressions to add meaning to what you are saying, practice can help greatly.
Managing any nervousness that you feel about speaking in public will help with non-verbal communication so, once again, practising in front of a ‘tame’ audience can help you to grow in confidence.
If you’ve got 5 minutes, why not check out our 5 rules for effective communication?