Nonverbal Skills for Presenters: Top TED Talks Secrets

The most influential TED Talk presenters have one thing in common: they have exceptional nonverbal communication skills! The people at TED Talk collect a lot of data to understand why some of their speakers are more popular than others. Their research shows top-rated presenters use almost double the number of hand gestures as lower-rated speakers. 

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Nonverbal Skills Not Equal!

But do not be deceived into thinking that gesturing for the sake of gesturing will make you more influential! Not all nonverbal gestures are created equal! We have analyzed TED Talk speakers over time and the quality of gestures is just as important as the quantity! How you gesture determines if people hear your messages or tune you out. Therefore, it is worth your time to learn some things about nonverbals.

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Distracting Nonverbal Cues

Studies show nonverbal cues account for up to 88% of your message. For this reason, our team constantly collects news clips to show our clients good and bad examples of nonverbal communication skills. In recent months we have collected clips of Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Lately we have noticed that both leaders have started using larger, more sweeping hand gestures that are distracting. Benchmark has two rules about nonverbals that you could find helpful. First, nonverbals should not distract from your message. Second, the best nonverbals add to or enhance your message. 

Gates & Bezos Gestures

Elizabeth Warren’s Nonverbals

Former Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is another public figure with distracting nonverbal cues. You may recall that during her time on the campaign trail Warren was known for using lots of fast-paced gestures and as she walked from one side of the stage to another. Everything you do communicates – so what did Warren communicate? It made some people perceive her to be a bit out of control. I assume Warren’s intention was to communicate passion about her ideas; or maybe she just wasn’t aware of her nonverbals. You can be passionate about your views yet use nonverbal cues that communicate control and power. 

Elizabeth Warren speaking skills

Beto O’Rourke’s Nonverbals

Former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is also known for his nonverbal movements. You may recall that his gestures went viral when he announced his run for US president. O’Rourke’s frantic gestures quickly became the talk of comedy shows, social media and news reports. This is another great example of gestures that distract from messages!  

Beto O'Rourke gestures

Nonverbal Skills for Meetings

We recently coached a female executive to improve her presentation and communications skills. She had never given much thought to her nonverbal cues, so she was fascinated (and a little horrified) to see herself on camera. She realized that she is a “word person” and she just did not focus on nonverbal cues. Even during meetings, she kept her hands in her lap or folded on the conference table. She was giving up her power! Hand gestures are one of the most important tools that help you convey credibility and likability. You should keep this in mind during virtual meetings, too.

Improving Nonverbal Delivery

Nonverbal delivery isn’t just about gestures. Nonverbal communication skills also include things such as head movement, body movement, breathing, voice patterns, use of space, voice pace, tone, blood pressure, energy levels and much more. But gestures are one of the most prominent and important tools in your communication arsenal! This is why it is worth your time to increase your self-awareness and make sure your nonverbal gestures add to your intended message. 

Professionals with stronger communication skills are in demand because they add more value to teams. You can call on Benchmark Communications to help improve your team’s communication skills and presenting skills. We are known for delivering fun, actionable and relevant consulting services and training programs.