Great Leaders Use Key Nonverbal Communication Skills

Leaders are made, not born. The characteristics that underpin the lives of great business leaders come from observation, application, and repetition of essential principles. One of these is effective communication, and a significant portion of that is nonverbal.

Actions speak louder than words. The adage is accurate, and nothing is more evident than with a presenter.

Regardless of the audience, nonverbal communication speaks volumes before, during, and after a presenter has spoken.

For leaders, this is not optional.

Their nonverbals must comport with the message they seek to convey. The productivity and future of the business are contingent upon consistent messaging, and that begins with nonverbals.


What you do not say is louder than what you do say.

Would you believe people are interpreting what you are saying instead of listening to what you say?

Did you know how you stand, walk, what you wear, your hair and gestures can communicate more loudly than your words?

People do not hear every word, but they interpret your message and determine if it aligns with the aura you convey.

In other words, they are watching your every move while hearing some of your comments. So, what is the message you want the audience to know?


When people come to a business presentation, they do not expect confusion. The presenter needs to command control of the room immediately.

Listeners want to know you are in charge – this allows them to relax, actually, and focus their mental attention on the message being conveyed.

The first step to controlling the room is your posture. Stand erect, do not slouch. The presenter need not stand as if saluting a commanding officer. Instead, stand as one with confidence. Your shoulders should be square, your back comfortably straight, and your feet shoulder length apart.

Avoid folding your arms while presenting. That is a sign of defense.

The audience has not come to attack you but will undoubtedly disrespect you if your posture isn’t erect.

Remember, you need not be stiff – this is not a military parade but exudes calm confidence through balanced standing and walking.


Fashion is a function of attractiveness. It has been proven that handsome people tend to succeed more in life than less attractive individuals.

Why? What makes one attractive?

Regardless of gender, attractive people are not individuals with ideal facial features. That is far from the norm.

What’s ideal?

Attractive people in the business world are well-groomed, clean, neat, professionally dressed with a flair that fits their personality.

In other words, attractive people are comfortable in their skin.

A presenter’s complete fashion speaks before they do. People quickly size-you-up when they first meet you.

  • What are you wearing?
  • Is it befitting for the occasion?
  • Is it in style?
  • Does it make a particular statement?
  • Is it conservative?
  • Is it cutting edge?
  • Is it too risque?
  • Is it distracting?

Make sure your hairstyle and color are an accent and not a feature. Of course, your clothing is well kept and fits you appropriately – not too tight, not too baggy.

These questions are on the minds of your audience.

Therefore, make sure your fashion conveys a message that comports with your presentation. Be attractive – be effective – and be fashionable.


The Statue of Liberty is a stoic representation of freedom in America. She stands firm and resolute.

We behold her beauty, grace, dignity and quickly move on because she can not. If we remained with her, we would be miserable.

Likewise, do not be the Statue of Liberty – move about the room.

A presenter who does not move becomes mute to the audience. They struggle to hear you because they are still themselves.

Movement promotes energy. It brings kinesiology to the presentation, which can not move. You are the giver of the message, therefore, try to move in a way that helps the delivery of your message.

Movement also conveys confidence.

Presenters who casually but purposefully walk while presenting command respect. They become attractive presenters because their appearance is a living organism communicating life, which is knowledge, to the audience.

They will not bore, nor will they forget the message.

Therefore, move with surety.

In concert with your movement, use the appropriate hand gestures – this will further cement the message and engage the audience.

Avoid repetitive usage of hand gestures. Be original and be intentional with hand gestures by following the five pointers below:

  1. When offering information for consideration, do so with open hands. Extend your open hand gently as if providing a piece of candy to a tender child.
  2. When gathering the audience’s attention, do not shout; instead, in a soft voice, ask for their attention while holding up your pointer finger.
  3. When reinforcing a concept, open your palms toward the audience at chest level and restate.
  4. When correcting misinformation or a failed attempt by a willing participant, smile and build upon the error by rephrasing the question and placing your pointer finger over your closed lips; this conveys deeper thought on your behalf and provokes more profound belief among the audience.
  5. When concluding a section or the entirety of a presentation, bring your hands together as if in prayer. This posture conveys conclusion, resolution, and cohesion.

These gestures can accompany you as you canvas the room if possible or as you casually enlarge the space where you can move with confidence.

Leave the Appropriate Distance Between Yourself and the Audience

Unless there is a large crowd in an auditorium, most business presentations are to a handful of people.

Therefore, keep your distance at about 5-feet. You don’t want to tower over people, but you don’t want to stand too far away either.

You want to be connected but in control. Distance determines the ratio.

If the audience are strangers to you, keep your distance.

There is no relationship established yet – as the presentation continues, laughter becomes a reality, a conversation emerges, questions are posed without apprehension, or comments offered without concern, intimacy is developed.

Therefore, at this point, move closer.

Typically, the way to bridge the gap between you and the audience is to ask them a question that spawns conversation.

You move closer when an answer is offered. Conversely, when a question is posed to you, step toward the interested party to answer it.

Shrink the room by focusing on that person and pleasantly answer their question.

Remember, in most presentations; you will be standing. Do not get too close. It is uncomfortable for the seated party.

It is intimidating in a variety of ways. Keep appropriate distance, but never be so far away that the audience can not connect with you.

They should be able to see your face clearly and hear your voice crisply.


Facial expressions are words spoken without your mouth ever opening. Audiences know what you are thinking by the expression on your face – this is good, but it can also distract from your message.

People read facial expressions as a means to ascertain the truth. Leaders must align their facial expressions with the message they convey verbally.

If not, employees will not believe the leader, and trust is broken. When trust is broken, productivity suffers, and retention decreases.

Refrain from using certain facial expressions:

  • Do not furrow your brow at the audience as this conveys disdain, disapproval, or even disgust.
  • Avoid pursing your lips as it communicates distrust or disbelief.
  • Rolling the eyes at an audience member, especially when they are speaking, is utter disregard.
  • The closed lip extended smile says, “you poor soul, you have no idea.” It’s a pity, and leaders do not want to pity others but uplift them.

Try to maintain an accessible, open presence.

A genuine smile breaks down barriers and builds relationships. A simple smile is met with its reciprocal. Therefore, be sincere, and even when you become irritated or annoyed, do not let your face tell that story.

Instead, consider the great things people have done in the organization and let your face convey that message.

Utilize the following steps:

  1. Maintain Eye Contact
    The gateway to the soul is through the eyes. While some say the stomach, let’s focus on the eyes. In all honesty and seriousness, one sure way to lose an audience is to avoid eye contact. You need not stare into the eyes of every audience member but certainly look at the matters. These are the people to whom you are addressing. Staring at notes, looking at Powerpoints on a screen conveys a lack of preparation. It may also communicate a lack of confidence. Canvas the room. Look at everyone. Or, at a minimum, look just above their heads at a specific spot on the wall. Many look for the rear wall clock, but there is no wall clock in several more contemporary meeting spaces. So, find a spot that works, but by all means, look at your audience. They may become offended if you never look at them.
  2. The Value of a Pause
    Perhaps the most remarkable instrument the presenter possesses is the pause. It’s uncomfortable – it’s striking – it’s also practical. The silent pause allows your audience to contemplate what you have said. Remember, they are interpreting everything from your audible message to your non-audible message. The pause gives time to put it all together and answer a question you have put forth. Also, the pause is excellent for diffusing negativity or hostility. If you, as the presenter, become defensive, you have lost all control. Instead, calmly be silent. Do not clench your fist, cross your arms, or point your finger directly at the offender – this serves to escalate the situation. Instead, remain calm, smile slightly, tilt your head to the right, and pause. A leader in the audience or another audience member will find a way to move things forward. More than likely, the offender is known for such. Let the audience handle it because it is their time that is being squandered.
  3. Consider Your Attitude
    Attitude is everything when it comes to presenting. It would help if you were humble yet assertive. Calm, yet engaging. Peaceful, yet challenging. It’s a balancing act, and good presenters find the silver threads to make it all happen. The key is to be sincere. Your attitude will adjust to the sincerity in your heart for the topic you are presenting. You are sharing, not force-feeding. Offer information to your listening viewing audience. People would rather accept an offering than swallow vinegar. Your attitude will determine which they receive.
  4. Leveraging Nonverbals
    Nonverbal communication is assertive. It can build your presentation or destroy it. Truthfully, a presenter or leader should earnestly desire to convey a message to the audience. The nonverbals that accompany that message introduce it and undergird it – this is sheer power. Therefore, leverage that reality and work to make your nonverbals align with your audible message. The viewing listeners’ effectiveness is enhanced by it, and an organization thrives because of it.


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