Even if you’re not a professional speaker, you may have to make a presentation from time to time. Whether to your company’s Board, your boss, or even your customer.

A lot of times we get so caught up in what we want to say that we overlook the most important part: the audience.

Think about it. Someone crosses their arms and leans back during your presentation. Does this mean that they don’t like what you just said, don’t like you personally or that they’re just cold?

The truth is, you don’t know unless you ask the person. Any assumptions you make are just a mind read and you may get it really wrong. We all know the old adage about making assumptions.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can learn from the non-verbal communication of your audience.

Some common things you may notice them doing are:

  • Leaning back
  • Crossing their arms
  • Shifting position
  • Putting down their pen or pencil
  • Squinting

Some of these will require more or less finely tuned observation skills. But the idea is that if you notice one of these changes, they may in fact be communicating that they are not with you and they just haven’t raised their hand yet.

Some of your audience members may not have an abundance of confidence and may never raise their hands to ask you a question.

Noticing a change in their body language, gives you the opportunity to do a mind read, like “I don’t think they’re getting what I’m saying” and then quickly check in with the person to make sure they are with you.

Your audience member will often be amazed by your seemingly psychic ability to know that they have a question before they do. It’s a great way to create and build credibility and connection with your audience.

So, be on the lookout for those nonverbals and remember, you don’t know what they mean until you ask.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

related posts: