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Use of Nonverbal Communication in Meetings

Aug 17, 2008 653 Words
Nonverbal communication is very important when running a meeting. First and foremost, it assists in giving the speaker credibility (Thrill & Bovee, 2007). If a speaker is looking at the ground, slouching, and wringing their hands, they don’t appear confident. If the speaker isn’t confident in the information they are delivering, no one in the meeting will feel confident about it either. It is of utmost importance for a speaker to believe in what they are saying or it will come out in their body language. Even if what they say makes sense and has practical business applications, if their body language betrays the fact that they do not believe in it, others will pick up on and follow those cues (Hopkins). In that case, the only thing the meeting has succeeded in doing is wasting everyone’s time.

Calling a meeting to order via nonverbal communication is simple. If people are sitting around chatting, the speaker doesn’t even have to say anything. They only have to stand confidently and quietly (Hopkins). Oculesics, or eye behavior, is an effective tool as well (Dahl). Eye contact with a smile facilitates. People will quiet down and focus when they see the speaker acknowledge their presence. The smile in combination with the eye contact is important. If the speaker simply stares everyone down in the conference room before he or she begins, people may feel intimidated or defensive, and that is counter productive. Also, when the speaker stands still with their hands in their pockets, folded behind their back or clasped in front of them, and is not fidgeting with things, it indicates to the rest of the people in the room that he or she is ready to begin. All of these things are nonverbal indicators that it is time to commence.

Nonverbal communication is a great way to emphasize important topics. In casual conversation people use nonverbal communication when telling stories to highlight important parts, and the same applies in business (Hopkins). Gestures are often one of the tools implemented. In a meeting, a fist in an open palm adds punctuation to a statement, a wide sweeping motion indicates inclusion, pointing draws attention to visual aides used in a presentation, etc. One can also show approval by nodding and smiling; express reservations through facial expressions such as squinting and frowning (Thrill & Bovee, 2007). The speaker can use gestures and other nonverbal communication to regulate the flow of conversation as well. Extending an arm and an open hand towards an individual gives them the floor. Nodding and making a repetitive motion with one’s hand towards one’s body can invite a colleague to continue with a comment. Another important nonverbal communication is movement, or kinesics (Dahl). If a speaker moves about the conference room – their stage – he or she keeps the audience engaged. Movement attracts attention (Hopkins). Contrarily, if a speaker stands still at the front of the room, people tend to day dream or think about other things – it is more difficult to keep their attention. Rocking back and forth on one’s feet is a fidgety movement and is more distracting than anything (Hopkins). If a presenter has issues with this, they will often curl their toes in their shoes to prevent themselves from rocking when standing still is necessary. Nonverbal communication is an integral part of any meeting. It has an impact on how successful a meeting is – presentation and reception. When the speaker is aware of this, he or she can use it to their advantage when conducting their meetings.


References
Dahl, Stephan A short introduction to nonverbal communication. Retrieved June 15, 2008, Web site: http://stephan.dahl.at/nonverbal/non-verbal_communication.html. Hopkins, L Nonverbal communication in business. Retrieved June 15, 2008, from FrugalMarketing.com Web site: http://www.frugalmarketing.com/dtb/nonverbal.shtml. Thrill, John V., & Bovee, C.L. (2007). Excellence in business communication, seventh edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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