Maybe you know the often quoted study by Mehrabian when it comes to a presentation. What was that again about body language, voice and content…? Which of these is most important when presenting?
Who or what is Mehrabian, you ask? Armenian-Iranian-American psychologist Albert Mehrabian has spent many years studying communication and body language. Among other things, he published studies in 1972 (Silent messages: Implicit communication of emotions and attitudes.), which among other things gave the following result:
Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking.
Did you know that many people misinterpreted and misquoted this study for decades now?
The big misinterpretion of a study
Important behind these numbers is the following statement by Mehrabian on his website1:
“This and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”
In addition, the number of test subjects in the studies was very small – once eight, once ten – and therefore not scientifically significant. Nevertheless, for decades these results have fascinated many who have anything to do with the subject of appearance, performance and effect.
So this much quoted study by Mehrabian is probably only conditionally applicable for presentations with economic, technical or other content. If you know of more recent studies on this, feel free to share them with me 😉
Some addition to the Mehrabian study
What has always been missing for me personally with these numbers is the energy that comes from a presenter. The mindset with which you go on stage in front of people directly affects your energy with which you connect with your audience. It also affects your posture and subsequently your voice.
Right after energy, outfit also comes to mind. Does your clothing and styling fit your target audience?
Not to be forgotten nowadays is the technology. From flipcharts, PowerPoint, overhead slides, microphone, etc. for live presentations; to camera, light, microphone, online tools etc. for online presentations. Here you have a wide range of possibilities. Simply share your content interactively with your audience and make a good impression with it as well.
New thesis on how your audience perceives you
So I propose the following new thesis for how your audience perceives you, when talking about other content than feelings:
Total Liking = 28% Energy + 23% Body Language + 17% Voice + 16% Content + 11% Aesthetics + 5% Technology
Did I forget something?
So, who of you would volunteer to do a study? I only need about 20 people to prove my thesis…
Maybe the outcome of the study and thus the new equation is totally different.
And from the presenter’s point of view?
Here the thesis numbers shift again. I would reserve a huge portion for the mindset. A lot stands and falls with your mindset. You can prepare the content, your outfit and the technique as well as you like. None of this helps if you are not prepared to speak in front of others. But that’s what performance coaches are for….
So, when do we get started? 😊
Rock on 🤘 Christiane
1 source of Mehrabian’s website checked on the 17th of May 2021.