I recently watched a Ted Talk video and truly loved the message that was conveyed by Clint Smith to his audience. I then decided to look a little deeper and analyse the communication and body language messages that Clint gives. Although the message was undeniably excellent, I decided to jot down a few pointers that are useful to keep in mind when finding oneself in a public speaking or presentation setting. This post will be the first of many Ted Talks analyses and I would like to encourage you to comment and offer your opinions as well, when it comes to body language, presentation and public speaking skills.
At first glance, Clint seemed outwardly and sufficiently confident. However, on closer inspection, it was obvious that he was anything but. The fact that he was to speak at this event; being in a large hall decked with professional cameramen; sound technicians; lighting technicians; people from the media and of course the audience, I found it quite remarkable that Clint was able to convey the message to his audience and listeners in the best way that he could.
His hand gestures were typical of a trained speaker, although his apparently monotonous voice did not correlate with these or the message he was trying to convey. If you look carefully at his facial expression, he hardly smiled. Yes, the message was serious, although it is important to still smile at times; showing the audience that you are at ease and are enjoying addressing them. Clint's lack of facial expression and monotony then flowed into overly accelerated speech; wringing of his hands; and him remaining in one position on the stage with his legs tightly held together. All of the above and more are indicative of anxiety and a sudden rush of adrenaline that has overwhelmed his body.
Clint's pausing in between sentences and breath control seemed laboured, jerky and challenging for him to control. This is yet another aspect indicative of a speaker being overcome by nerves, which causes one to not communicate as effectively as possible.
After I finished watching the talk I have a few questions. Is this person nervous because he is speaking on Ted Talks? Perhaps it is that he does not believe what he is saying. Is he trying to control himself to such an extent that his body in turn leaks confusing messages? It does not matter how good you are at speaking, at the end of the day if you do not believe in what you are saying and you are not communicating "your truth" (as Clint says in his talk), then your body language will not match your message. Essentially a speaker who does this gives off contradictory signals, which in turn produces a response that he may not be entirely be happy with and which will leave the audience feeling uncomfortable.
A message, no matter how good or bad, is always internalized and thought of first and then vocalised. The voice must always be accompanied by, and match up with, one's body language as well, so as not to create confusion and misunderstanding. If body language does not reflect what you believe and what you are saying then subconscious messages come to the fore via leakage.
Clint Smith: The danger of silence
Michelle is a speech and communication specialist working with companies and individuals in South Africa and internationally.