Body Language & Tone 101

The wrong non-verbal cues can cause you to lose the audience

I’m going to explain the importance of body language by giving you an example of a man who used it entirely wrong. To set the scene: Picture yourself in a large room set up for a seminar. There were about 70 people in the room. (I was not leading this particular workshop; I was in the audience.) The topic was career strategy.

The facilitator posed the question, “Who feels like they’ve been great at career strategy?” To my surprise, only one person, a man, raised his hand and naturally the facilitator asked him to share his experience.

He launched into a story about how when he was entering college, he purposely signed up for classes with professors who had either served on Wall Street boards or had connections in New York City with Wall Street firms. He had always wanted to work on Wall Street and felt that he could utilize these professors’ office hours in order to make this dream a reality by picking their brains as much as possible.  Keep in mind, this was several years before the days of LinkedIn, so the fact that this man did the necessary research into the professors’ backgrounds showed inspiring initiative and determination.

He had the entire room hooked with his story. Picture all these people leaning in to learn more about his strategic 18-year-old to 21-year-old self and this foresight and strategy at such a young age. 

Until this point, he had appeared genuine and sincere in describing his dream and the steps he took to make it happen. But then his body language and tone shifted. He leaned back, placed one arm on the back of the chair, shrugged, and said: “You know, I got that job on Wall Street. At a little ol’ firm, you may have heard of them? Goldman Sachs?”  (Insert a self-congratulatory laugh on his part at his cleverness. Ugh.)

Where did it go awry?  He lost his sincerity and lost the audience connection in the end. Not one single person wanted to chat him up afterward to learn more.  Not only did he say this to an entire forum of bank employees at another firm, which immediately turned off and annoyed them by the shift in his body language, it also became the epitome of a braggart.

I like to tell this story because it’s the perfect example of what women fear the most. We would be horrified to think that we could ever come across in this way. But I feel that it is actually quite simple to avoid creating that type of reaction. The key to self-promotion is to celebrate your success genuinely, and by explaining why you found the process exciting and rewarding.

Ask yourself, “What am I really excited about that I could share with others? What was my process to get there and make that event possible? What did I learn along the way about myself or in general?”  Now that’s something we would all love to celebrate with you and learn more about.  That’s not bragging, it’s interesting, engaging and sincere, and ultimately is self-advocacy and connecting. For more on the benefits of self-promotion, click here.

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