Part Three: Presence and the Power of Non-Verbal Communication

It may seem odd for an executive voice coach to focus significant attention on the silent elements of communication, but trust me, it’s vital! Presence—that is, non-verbal communication—is what people feel from you before you open your mouth to speak. Presence is energy that reveals itself through your body language, and your listeners’ reaction to that energy will strongly influence how they react to your spoken message, for better or worse.

In the days when “mass communication” meant only radio, physical presence simply wasn’t important—listeners heard but did not see the speaker. But with the advent of television, communicators quickly learned (sometimes the hard way!) that presence speaks volumes. The classic example is the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960, in which Nixon’s heavy five o’clock shadow and sweating upper lip made him appear unkempt and frightened. Today, any combination of bad posture, awkward gestures, nervous “ticks,” and unconscious scowls (etc.) can sink your own campaign.

Conversely, think of a speech that really resonated with you. Was it because the orator spewed forth a slew of relevant facts or clever points? If so, can you recall what they were? Most likely not, but what you can remember is the emotion that was stirred in you as a result of how that information was delivered. This emotional experience linked you psychologically to the speech, and the emotion remained memorable long after the words faded. Presence might be thought of as the art of connecting emotionally with your audience.

Please view the video clip below to see a demonstration of some of the challenges in building physical presence, and the solutions:

VIDEO CLIP: “Presence”

Let me conclude this series of posts with a rock-solid assurance: We can change the way people perceive us, by changing the way we speak. And by “the way we speak,” I mean both vocally and all the non-verbal elements of presence. In fact, the way we speak is twice as important as the actual content of our message. Effective communication is not about information, rather, the way you make someone feel. This will determine if you change minds and make a meaningful impact.

Bottom line: you can have a voice that is as powerful as the individual you are. 


Hillary Wicht is an executive voice coach who helps clients develop their voices for leadership, so they can step more fully into their power and influence. She empowers voices in board rooms, court rooms, sales meetings, and on the stage—building competence and confidence, and helping women to discover an impactful voice and presence that creates success in their careers and lives. Contact or 310-916-6262.

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