Watching the Body Language of People Attending a Business Body Language Presentation
by Barbara Chatzkel
I have the opportunity to watch a lot of people get surprised about what, exactly, their business body language can communicate.
As I present workshops and overviews of Business Body Language, one of my favorite things is to observe the reactions of the attendees to what they are hearing and seeing. There is a uniformity in people’s reaction to and awareness of their own body language. I am treated to a predictable and entertaining nonverbal display as participants move down the predictable path.
I like to arrive at a presentation site early because it allows me to get comfortable with the space and have plenty of time to set up. And, it provides me with the opportunity to observe the participants in their natural state – being themselves and unself-conscious about their body language. I can get a sense of the group and determine which individuals I can call on to help demonstrate some of the business body language examples for the audience.
A typical opening I use is, “I’ve been watching your body language as a group and…”
If the group is playful and knows each other, I can say, “…and boy, do I have more work cut out for me!” We can engage in conversation that sets the stage for a participatory session and one where we both learn and have fun.
The trajectory of a participant’s reaction is
- Opening – they are checking me out. Am I credible? Will they learn anything useful? Is there any truth to what she is saying? Lots of quizzical looks and closed body language going on. My job is convert them during the opening.
- Introduction of Business Body Language – learning and listening. The impact of body language on everyday business is a topic that typically grabs an audience. I see nodding heads and smiles as participants find a lot of agreement.
- More detailed discussion, examples of body language – When I delve into the five body language broadcast centers and show positive and negative body language situations, it’s the “Light Bulb Moment.”
One by one, the participants figure out that some of the less effective body language examples are things they routinely do. It’s the old, “Wow, I do that!” realization.
Watching the hurried attempts to correct habitual Business Body Language gives me the opportunity to observe a wide range of reactions and in-process feedback in the form of laughing, frowning, and everything in between. Generally, it takes 21 days to change a habit, and the first week is the most difficult. As I watch individuals try to modify their longstanding behaviors for the first time, it is as if they are trying on a tuxedo or formal gown – uncomfortable and trying to figure out how it all works.
Some of the body language signals that are difficult to change quickly include:
- Standing with arms akimbo (with hands on the hips and elbows turned outward) or crossed over the chest
- When standing in a relaxed posture, cupping the hands over one’s “privates”
- Pointing at people
The best advice I can give as you work on modifying your body language is to relax and laugh at the situation. If you look around, the people next to you are trying to figure it out, too. Laughter is a great stress reducer.
Understand that body language postures/positions are not static and rigid. Every situation calls for different Business Body Language. By the end of the presentation, participants are once again smiling and nodding because they are looking at themselves and others with a powerful new lens.
As one recent attendee said, “I’ll never ignore feet again!”
Barbara Chatzkel’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends across industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book, Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print in early 2016. Visit her website today for further information.