Speaking: 90% non-verbal?


I’ve never believed that tired statistic that 80%, 90%, or whatever high # percentage of communication is non-verbal. I’ve heard this statistic from time-to-time, as I’m sure you have, and I’ve never been able to buy it. I mean, imagine a great presenter in front of the room using no words, but with amazing gestures, facial expressions and eye contact. When he finished, wouldn’t you wonder “what was all that about?”

Now imagine a rather average speaker, head buried in his notes, frozen to the lectern with hands clasped on either side. He’s reading JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you”, or MLK’s “I have a dream”, or FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” speech. Would you get at least a little more out of a decently read speech with no real delivery skills…or silent gesture dude?

While gestures and such are important for an effective delivery and connection, the truth is that content is king. Think of it this way, what gestures (or other non-verbals) do you get from a book or an audio tape? Would you pay for a DVD of someone silently reading you a book? (please let me know if you would answer yes to that one).

What’s the point? While it’s a good idea to practice and improve your non-verbals, remember that the most important thing is your message, and how the audience will hear it. Take the time to develop your content, and do some editing. You can practice non-verbals throughout, but don’t let yourself get distracted by that 90% rule. The important thing is not to distract your audience with bad non-verbals.

Keep working on your writing and your editing, and you’ll be in a better position top put it all together in the end.

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