I often stress the importance of non-verbal communication in ensuring that audiences receive messages effectively while media training my clients. I was taught, back when we all still used typewriters to compose a document, that up to 80 percent of communication was non-verbal – voice tone/quality, body language, etc. While there are differing opinions on that statistic, I believe that non-verbal communication plays a particularly important role in how an individual’s character is assessed by observers.
I would strongly recommend doing a Google search for the following terms in order to get a more in-depth education on various aspects of nonverbal communication:
– “understanding body language”
– “nonverbal cues”
– “improving nonverbal communication”
How does this relate to media interviews or public presentations during times of crisis, where spoken message delivery becomes so critical to the welfare of the organization or individual in crisis? I came up with a simple way to remember the non-verbal attitude which should accompany the spoken message.[The Three C’s of Credibility]
During a crisis, effective spokespersons must, primarily through their non-verbal cues, leave their audiences with the impression that they are:
Think “Rudy Giuliani” on and after 9-11. It was his attitude, his non-verbal cues, which gave his audiences comfort. If he had delivered the same messages in a stereotypical governmental manner, the amount of fear and anxiety felt by listeners would have been dramatically higher. Instead, what they clearly felt, for the most part, was “However horrible this situation is, Mayor Giuliani is going to get us through it, he’s doing the right thing, in the right way.” He actually delivered little substance, initially, because so little was known. But he won over his audience (not to mention laying the groundwork for his future ventures).
If stakeholders perceive you as Compassionate, Competent and Confident, they are far more likely to believe your messages. In fact, if you’re really good at projecting the “Three C’s,” you can get away with some messaging errors and still win over your audience.