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Stop Hacking your Body Language

You can’t swing a cat GIF on LinkedIn today without hitting an article on body language and meetings. And for good reason. There is a pot of crypto right now for organizational psychologists telling people how to move and behave during meetings.

Learn the Presentation Techniques of Steve Jobs

How to Nail your Next Presentation

Read Body Language Like the FBI in your Next Meeting (srsly, this exists)

I wish the last one was made up. I honestly do. Could you imagine hawking every vendor meeting like you’re identifying candidates for extraordinary rendition? Please stop. If your weekly status meeting requires you to become The Mentalist minus the amazing hair, you might be overthinking it.

Yes, giving a cogent presentation is a valuable skill in the workplace. Yes, we need more clear and thoughtful communication in this day and age. No argument here. The main crux is that there is a huge difference between a meeting and a presentation. Don’t use mistake a meeting for a presentation.

If you’re regularly pitching your next big thing to VCs, or speaking at the next TEDx then yeah, maybe put some extra time into how you come across. But for most of us workadays, meetings are a necessary evil, and are a different beast than an actual presentation.

In the regular rhythm of meetings, the contents tends to run together. So setting up the one thing you want people to remember is a good practice. If they don’t remember anything else, what do you want them to walk away with? Hint: It’s probably not a chart, and it’s definitely not your use of steepling.

The bottom line is that the most effective body language is what comes across as natural. For you. That’s it. It’s not about mastering a technique or hacking yourself into some kind of persona, but about growing more and more comfortable in your own opinions, and in the validity of your own work. Putting on a meeting persona is going to feel forced to your audience, and is going to distract from the one thing you’re trying to communicate.

The most effective body language is what comes across as natural. For you. That’s it.

If you are generally a very structured person by nature, rolling up your sleeves, unbuttoning your collar, and slouching into a chair is going to elicit more eye-rolls than anything else. If you are a generally relaxed person, polishing your ictus points like some kind of maestro is going to be out of step with your audience.

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I taught college students for 8 years, and the biggest hurdle I had to overcome in public speaking was familiarity with, and comfort in my own skin. A lot of the meeting persona hacks available out there are forced and unnatural, and they add to the meeting anxiety that many already face. People respond to genuine. What excites you and how do you express it? This takes some self-reflection and even preparation, but it is time much better spent than trying to become an FBI interrogator.

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Art director, illustrator, and senior manager of eLearning Design and Development

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