You communicate far more with your face than you probably realize, so you should be aware of how expression in presentations can enhance or degrade your business presentation.
Your facial expressions can reinforce your message, confuse your audience, or detract from your message. Yes, there is something called bad expression, and at its worst, it can generate hostility in your audience.
Look no further than the accompanying photo to absorb the lesson of how our expressions can enhance our presentation . . . or cripple it.
A thorough knowledge of how our expressions can lift our talk or derail it is essential to becoming a powerful business communicator.
The problem of bad expression has plagued speakers for centuries. Some of our earliest writers on oratory lamented the poor expressive skills of the folks who take to the stage to speak.
Quintilian was a great Roman teacher of oratory in his time. He’s influenced many generations of public speakers ince the recovery of his classic manuscripts in the 15th Century.
Perhaps you’ve not heard of Quintilian? It’s time you did.
Expression in Presentation for 1,900 Years
Quintilian published his monumental Institutes of Oratory at the end of the 1st Century AD, and it continues as a powerfully influential treatise on presentations today. It’s rich with insight and practical instruction. Take this passage on expression:
[The teacher] will have to take care that the face of his pupil, while speaking, look straight forward; that his lips be not distorted; that no opening of the mouth in moderately distend his jaws. That his face be not turned up, or his eyes cast down too much, or his head inclined to either side. The face offends in various waysl. I have seen many speakers, whose eyebrows were raised at every effort of the voice. Those of others I have seen contracted. Those of some even disagreeing, as they turned up one towards the top of the head, while with the other the eye itself was almost concealed. To all these matters, as we shall hereafter show, a vast deal of importance is to be attached. For nothing can please which is unbecoming.
Would that our modern instructors of presentations would take a moment to share even the most modest of insights offered by great orators such as Quintilian. He remains relevant and incisive after 1,900 years. On the need for coordinated and thoughtful expression, and a great many other timeless techniques.
That’s staying power. And a heckuva personal brand.
And as he notes with respect to expression, nothing can please which is unbecoming. Your facial expression should reflect your spirit. It should reveal your heart and your soul, and if it does, you will be in no danger of appearing “unbecoming.”
Your face should transmit sincerity and earnestness consonant with your words. So I urge you in your presentations to smile often . . . frown sparingly . . . stare never . . . question occasionally . . . and show sincerity throughout.
To continue exploring the power of expression in presentations, as well as your personal brand and personal competitive advantage, consult my book The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.