A week after the first presidential debate, the media is still buzzing about how each candidate performed. Much of what is being discussed is not what was said, but rather, how it was said in the form of nonverbal communication. The nonverbal communication of presidential debates often greatly contributes to the “winning” narrative going back to the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between a photogenic, fresh John F. Kennedy and a tired, perspiring Richard Nixon. Those who watched on television gave the win to Kennedy, while those who listened on the radio thought Nixon was the clear winner. Today, in the age of the 24 hour news cycles, non-verbal communication becomes even more important because a non-verbal gaffe can be queued up and played over and over again. Former President Bush looking at his watch, former Vice-President Gore sighing, President Obama looking down, candidate Romney smirking. Non verbal communication is a powerful force and that’s why we highlight in this week’s Ted Tuesday Speech, “Your body language shapes who you are.” by Amy Cuddy
Body language or non-verbal communication is one area of focus for CALL peer mentors. Frequently students have no idea what their body is saying while they speak – some wiggle, some slump, some thump, some roll their eyes. Most of these involuntary movements go unnoticed by the speaker, but for the audience, these tendencies become a huge distraction from the intended message. For students, being able to come into the communication lab, record the practice speech and go over it with a mentor goes a long way in helping increase their awareness of body language. Strong non-verbals are an important building block of an effective oral presentation and they must be managed just as well as the written word.