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The Power of Non-Verbal Communication

By Ashley Denuzzo, Global Media Coordinator

Friedrich Nietzsche had it right when he said, “All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.”

To put it in simpler terms, the way you are “sensed” by others will impact how successfully you communicate, and in turn how you perform professionally.

Brilliant ideas, ambitious projects and everyday opinions are often misconstrued or dismissed because you are negatively perceived or misunderstood.

It’s not what you’re saying; it’s how you’re saying it.

Non-verbal communication is the process of shared cues between people, which goes hand-in-hand with public speaking. Simple things like eye contact, gestures, facial expression or stance can increase trust, clarity and add interest to your presentation – if done right.

In fact, 85 per cent of what an audience takes away is based on body language.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways we communicate without words:

Body Movements

Gestures like talking with your hands and fidgeting say a lot about how you think and organize your thoughts. Moving your body reinforces what is being said verbally. For example, nodding your head while saying “yes” not only emphasizes your agreement but also indicates you are an active participant in the conversation.

Body movement also regulates the flow of communication and signals when others should speak.  When you want to move, move with a purpose that is obvious to your audience. Be careful not to break your listener’s sense of personal space; make sure they are comfortable.


How you stand or sit says a lot about your comfort and confidence. For example, slouched shoulders and leaning to the side says you are either unsure of the message, nervous about the conversation or just don’t care. Avoid standing too stiffly, this implies you are afraid. Same goes with pacing during your speech; this implies that you are nervous.

To ensure a solid, confident body position, learn to take the boxer’s stance. Power poses radiate confidence and leadership. In fact, studies show that when standing in a power pose, our bodies increase testosterone levels by 20 per cent. Testosterone is a hormone that boosts motivation and confidence.

Eye Contact

This determines the level of trust between you and your audience. Eyes are one of the best attributes of human expression because they can show countless emotions with just one look. Maintaining eye contact with your audience or recipient indicates a mutual respect and a high level of interest in what is being said. A person can listen to a conversation, but having the appropriate eye contact shows that you are engaged.

Facial Expressions

Your face registers comfort or discomfort, passion or boredom and clarity or confusion about a topic or task. Facial expressions include smiling, frowning, eye rolling, blinking, scowling and appearing interested or disinterested. When your face shifts, others are interpreting how you feel about what is being said. Your words may seem positive, but your face could illustrate worry or anxiety.

People are more likely to absorb your message through your face. But be warned when using facial expressions, everyone understands them differently; we can easily misinterpret the intent behind nonverbal cues.

Remarks and Reactions

Spontaneous answers to questions represent your real ability to improvise. While your script may be rehearsed, your follow-up questions and open forum are not. We face tough questions and conversations each day. How you react in high-pressure situations says more than your answer. Stammering through questions shows lack of confidence and may convey uncertainty.

Fast thinking may not be your best thinking, but if you can slow down and structure your ideas, you will appear more transparent and better informed.

Public speaking is perhaps the one method of communication that still stands above technology. Our slide decks may get more glamourous but how you present the content will stay with the audience forever.

Professionals who understand and use nonverbal cues effectively are masters of their own communication. This can provide far deeper insight into business interactions than spoken or printed words.

Funny isn’t it? The most important thing in communication is arguably what isn’t being said.

Join the conversation. What do you think are the most important non-verbal cues in presentations? McLuhan & Davies is hosting a public workshop of The Skilled Presenter ™ Nov 26 – 27 in Toronto. Learn how to master your presentation skills and become a better public speaker.

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