The Body Speaks Before the Mouth Opens

Four techniques to  help you maximize your body language and generate more effective communication.


Before you open your mouth at a meeting, during a presentation or a larger speech you are already communicating. We make statements before we even say a word. How we dress, our posture and how we move and interact all send messages.

What’s so interesting when I work with clients is, many aren’t even thinking about this aspect of speaking. Instead, they spend hours honing their scripts, seeking to choose exactly the right words, only to pay no attention whatsoever to the visual judgments that audiences are making about them every time they get up to speak. And guess what – with no attention given to these critical non- verbal cues, all that practice on the verbal aspect won’t make up what’s ultimately grabbing your audience first: your appearance.

Dress to Impress

Any job-seeker when looking for advice on landing the right position will no doubt see countless articles and how-to’s that recycle the phrase, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

The way you look makes a strong visual statement about how you see yourself. So, how do you avoid negative first impressions and get your presentation off on the right foot without unnecessary distractions?

Actions Speak Louder

While I spend a lot of time working with clients on their actual speech and how they deliver it verbally…non-verbal communication is just as, or more important in some instances. We all know the old adage,“ actions speak louder than words” – and when it comes to speeches and body language, that can certainly apply. How you move your body, use your eyes, utilize your arms, etc., all send messages to those around you.

Do you come off as an open individual – interested in what you’re communicating and interested in the reactions of others? Or do you look like you’d rather be elsewhere, or that you’re unsure of what you’re saying? Either of those impressions will destroy your message and ensure that no one walks away inspired or motivated to act on your words.

In a TED talk by Amy Cuddy, she shares the exploration of her hypothesis that individuals can influence their feelings and behaviors by changing their body language. She wondered, is it possible for people to “fake it till they make it” – can someone take on certain body language characteristics to then influence their behavior? Her findings found that our nonverbals do in fact govern how we think and feel about ourselves.

Imagine the power in that. People are already reacting to your body language, but they’re also responding to how you are feeling about yourself based on the nonverbals postures you are using.

Help Your Body Help You

So, your verbal message is important, but your nonverbal is just as important – we’ve established that. But how do you make sure you’re sending the right messages when you speak? A major part of this is to figure out how to help your audience feel what you are feeling.

Here are four techniques to  help you maximize your body language and generate more effective communication: 

1.   Ask yourself what you want to convey.

Many people call this your “vibe.” You see it in musicians—the proverbial “rock star” vibe.

Before you begin a speech, whether you’re walking into a boardroom or stepping on stage, think about the situation that you are in and make a clear choice about the attitude you want to project. Do you want to look powerful? Vulnerable? Confident?

2.   Eyes Speak:

What are your eyes saying?

The eye can be a window into your soul. If you are looking straight into someone’s eyes, it’s very difficult for them to look away. They feel an immediate attachment and they look back.

Try making a practice of noticing the other person’s eye color, which is one way of staying focused

3,   Shake hands:

It’s the quickest way to establish rapport. It’s what we use to reach out and say, “I am happy to meet you. I’m pleased to meet you. What a pleasure.” Shake their hand, not too tight, not too loose.

It shouldn’t be limp because that’s what they’re going to remember. Just a firm handshake.

4.   Gestures:

Avoid looking rehearsed, like you’re a trained robot.

Use your hands when you are giving a speech just as you would in ordinary life. Just be natural. Wherever your hands happen to end up, that’s where they end up. We’re not gymnasts, who need to stick a landing and say, “Hey, look at me, I nailed it.”

We make statements before we even say a word, not only in how we dress but with our posture and body language as well.

The fact is, how you present yourself visually will affect your audience and their ability to really “hear” you. So, go ahead and take a look in that mirror…and SEE what you’re saying when you’re VERBALLY not saying anything at all.

Related articles:

Fake It Until You Become It

Practical Communication Tips for Any Situation

Smart Office Talk…Do’s & Don’ts of Communicating Constructively

Chuck Garcia
Chuck Garcia
Chuck is an author, executive coach, keynote speaker, and CEO of Climb Leadership International. He coaches executives on public speaking and leadership communication. A 25-year veteran of Wall Street, he spent several of those in leadership positions at Bloomberg, BlackRock, and Citadel. He is also adjunct associate professor at Columbia University where he teaches leadership communication in The Fu Foundation Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science. He leverages his business leadership experience, as well as his hobby of mountain climbing, to provide an effective teaching narrative for professionals applying his tools and techniques. In his book A Climb to the Top, an Amazon best seller, draws on years of coaching and consulting experience to explain how you can become a powerful and persuasive communicator. Chuck is a graduate of Syracuse University and has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. Website