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Keep calm, dear – you’re not a Venetian

I’ve just spent a week in Venice during which I observed many glorious examples of Italian non verbal communication. These tend to involve expansive hand and arm gestures, shoulder shrugging and animated facial expressions. Cigarettes are a common prop. All in all, it’s a lively and theatrical performance, entirely appropriate for those individuals and for the context in which they are communicating.

I’m often asked, in the training room, about body language and gestures, and the same rules of appropriateness and context apply. But, in a business scenario, calm is king. We want our audience to focus on our content, and for our non verbals to support our words rather than diverting attention from them.

As a first step it’s important for every speaker to find a comfortable ‘neutral’ position to which they can revert during the presentation. Standing or sitting still communicates great strength and confidence to our audiences, and enables us to use movement, gesture and facial expression deliberately and carefully, as part of the choreography of our presentation.

So, unless you’re a Venetian, arguing about the quality of the pasta, the advice is to keep calm, dear.