1. Use effective eye contact. Eye contact is your primary tool for establishing nonverbal connection with others. It communicates your level of sincerity, interest, and desire to engage. When speaking to others, ideally look directly into their eyes at least two seconds before looking away or moving to the next person. Glancing at someone for one second or less is known as eye-dart and conveys insecurity, anxiety or evasion. The next time you're in a meeting or giving a talk, recruit a colleague or friend to notice how long you look at specific individuals when you speak. Do you sustain meaningful eye contact with each listener for at least two seconds?
2. Choose your facial expressions. Each of the seven basic human emotions has been scientifically proven to have a certain facial expression associated with it: anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Because your facial expressions are closely tied to emotion, they are often involuntary and unconscious. Become aware of what your face is revealing to observers, and choose the expression that matches your intended message.
3. Concentrate on your voice tone. Perhaps you've heard an upset person respond, "It's not what you said, it's how you said it." They were referring to your paralanguage. Separate from the actual words used, these nonverbal elements of your voice include voice tone, pacing, pausing, volume, inflection, pitch and articulation. Consider recording your side of several conversations throughout the day. Listen to the recordings and identify what your voice tone communicates. Do you sound enthusiastic or bored? Helpful or impatient? Self-assured or hesitant?
4. Practice power posture. When you stand up tall and straight, you send a message of self-assurance, authority and energy. Whether standing or sitting, imagine a string gently pulling your head and spine toward the ceiling. Your weight is evenly balanced, feet solidly on the floor, arms and hands visible, relaxed and uncrossed. Good posture creates a dynamic presence and nonverbally communicates an attitude of leadership, command and readiness.
5. Dress the part. Shakespeare proclaims in Hamlet, "The apparel oft proclaims the man." For men and women, clothing speaks volumes in the workplace. Make sure 'business casual' is not 'business careless.' Choose high quality, well-tailored garments that convey professionalism. Depending on your corporate culture, wear a business suit or at least a jacket for important meetings and presentations, especially with senior leaders and customers. Avoid showy accessories, busy patterns, tight garments and revealing necklines. As the saying goes, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." If career advancement is your goal, convey a polished professional presence in the workplace.
6. Be well groomed. Grooming starts with good hygiene. Take steps to control perspiration, eliminate body odor, ensure fresh breath, and keep nails and hands neatly manicured. Avoid cologne or perfume due to others' possible allergies and sensitivities to smell. Make sure your hairstyle is current, professional, and neat.
7. Use effective gestures. Unclasp your hands, uncross your arms, and let them be free. Effective gestures significantly increase the meaning and impact of your message, so definitely use them. Ideally, keep gestures between your shoulders and hips; lower or higher movements tend to look over-animated. Be purposeful, i.e., use your hands to show a number (3 key points); indicate size (small, medium and large); welcome the audience or invite comments (extended arms with palms up). Be genuinely yourself and let your gestures naturally reinforce your words. Avoid common distracting mannerisms such as finger-pointing, fidgeting, clenching, scratching, tapping, playing with hair, wringing hands, twisting a ring, and jingling coins in a pocket.
For additional reading, learn more strategies for "How Non-Verbal Communication Can Help Women Get Ahead at Work" in my recent interview with Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC's TODAY show:
Discover the essential skills for becoming a more effective communicator and presenter in my book Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in Hardcover, Kindle, and Audio).