Communication skills are critically important to success in most industries, even if a position itself does not count among its responsibilities “communication” or “public speaking” you will need to communicate well to land it. We received these recommendations from public speaking coach Gregory Heller on ways you can influence a potential employer’s opinion of you and what you say.
Nonverbal Delivery -Body Language
You want to minimize or eliminate any motion that would distract your audience from paying attention to your facial expressions and your presentation.
Don’t rock, sway, step, pace or otherwise significantly move your feet during short presentations or interviews/networking conversations. Plant your feet parallel to each other, approximately hip width apart, with both feet flat on the ground. If you need to turn to different people in a small audience, turn from your hips facing your entire body toward the individual(s) you are addressing.
In a seated interview, you should place your feet flat on the ground, and keep your knees together and your back straight. Don’t hunch over, but do lean forward to engage your interviewer. You should also try to avoid:
- Symmetrical hand gestures tend to be less distracting.
- Try to not cross either hand in front of your body unless in a specific, intentional gesture.
- Clasping your hands tightly whether they are cupped, fingers interlaced, or palms together (prayer).
- Don’t play with your fingers, or pick at them.
- Don’t put your hands in your pockets.
- Don’t hold a prop like a pen, unless you are planning to write on white board or butcher paper.
- Don’t touch your face, unless there is a specific gesture, like holding your head in anguish.
- Don’t put your hands behind your back. This can convey the idea that you have something to hide. In a seated interview, you can still use your hands.
Keep them on or above the table but try not to fidget with any objects or with your fingers. Practice your hand gestures. Over time you will develop a vernacular of hand gestures that are comfortable to you and can be deployed with far less thought.
Also, before an interview you should stretch your face. Open and close your mouth, smile, frown, etc… before you enter the room. Just like an athlete (or anyone) would stretch muscles before using them, stretching your face will ensure you have a broader range of motion and expression.
In an interview with one person, start your answers with eye contact, and finish them with eye contact. If, between the start and finish of an answer, you find yourself looking away, bring your eye contact back to your interviewer.
When most of us speak in conversation with people we know, we have no problem speaking with variety. It is very difficult to describe in writing how to add variety in verbal presentations. The best way to get better at is to practice and record yourself and listen to/watch those recordings, or to practice in front of people who will provide unvarnished feedback.
Silent pauses, even for 1 second, are critically important for the person, or people, you are meeting with to stay engaged. Silence will draw attention and allow them time to process what you have just said. Silent pauses also signal to your audience that a new thought or idea is coming next and gives you an opportunity to breathe.
When you are answering questions in an interview, you want to make sure that your
answer actually does answer the question and does so in a logical way where the elements of your
answer build on each other. You may want to review the STAR model
for crafting answers (Situation, Task, Action, Results) and prepare actual answers for common questions you can expect will be asked.
This does not mean that you should memorize a verbatim answer, but if you are prepared with the anecdote you are going to use, and you understand what the interviewer is hoping to learn about you from your answer, you should be able to provide a clear and logical answer that also comes across as genuine and spontaneous.
Repetition can also be a problem for some Certain details, or even exact phrases are repeated unnecessarily. In interviews, you want to try to avoid repeating phrases or details.
There are many resources available if you choose to dive deeper into the topic of presentation design, and some of them are available via links both in this article, and on my website.