Body Language Matters

As with most personal communications, your body language, especially your facial expressions, may be giving you away. Be aware of how you’re presenting yourself on all fronts.


During the Q&A, one of the things you should keep really in the forefront of your thinking is how your body is reacting to those questions. Your body language can give away information that you might not want people to have. Well, back in the 60s there was a study done by a professor out of UCLA named Dr. Albert Mehrabian. He wanted to break down what actually happens when people communicate. What is it about the message that you’re giving out and how do we receive that message? It turns out there are three components. It’s the combination of the words you use, how your voice sounds, and what’s happening on your face. Back in the 60s, everybody stood behind lecterns, so that’s all you saw. Today your body language can give you away, but it’s mostly on your face. It turns out that only 7% of the message that people get from you as a speaker comes from your words; 38% comes from your voice; and 55% comes from your face. So if somebody asks you a really hard question or a question you really don’t want to answer, all of a sudden, your forehead crinkles up or your eyes get wide. That message is being receiving by your audience if they’re looking at you.

One of the most effective ways to rehearse a presentation is by standing in front of a video camera and presenting, and then watching it. The same thing goes for Q&A. If you don’t want to give away information off your face and your body, rehearse with a video just as you would your pitch. Stand in front of the camera, get asked a question, answer the question, and then watch your result, and see what’s happening on your face. I promise you’ll learn something by seeing yourself on camera.

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Powerful Presentations: Mastering Q&A || Body Language Matters || Impact Guide (PDF)..

Mehrabian, Albert. Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co. Nonverbal Communication.

Carnegie, Dale. 1937. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Cornerstone Publishing.

Questions for You

When people look at my face, what messages are they receiving?

What do people think when they see me smile?

What do people think when they hear me laugh?

Tools and exercises

Take the top 3 easiest and the top 3 most difficult questions you typically receive and record yourself giving the answers to those questions. Watch the results and see if you can spot the differences in how your facial expressions show up.

Record a close up of your face when presenting any topic (especially one where you are confident and do not need to read the script) for less than 30 seconds. Choose a topic you really like talking about or use the opening few slides of your investor pitch. Take that video of you and ask 10-25 people (inside and outside of your company) to view it and answer some questions such as, tell you what they think about, what they see or what they think the person is feeling when they speak or what messages they are getting from the speaker. Nathan Gold suggests using Amazon Mechanical Turks where you can get people to do this for you for .25 or .50 cents. The answers will amaze you!