Facial Expressions and How They Impact Your Presentation – Talking in Public

Facial Expressions and How They Impact Your Presentation

There are two areas I want to talk about with regard to facial expressions.

First are the facial expressions that are obvious to your audience and can be used to emphasise a point or lighten a moment without having to say a word.

The master of this I have seen most recently is James Veitch. If you are not aware of him, I recommend you look at some videos where he chronicles his interaction with email spammers or trying to unsubscribe from an email list. Yes, we hear the words and see on screen the story he is relaying but our reactions are driven by his facial expressions and what he does not say but conveys to us through his eye movements particularly.

We have the ability to be very expressive with our faces. If you are in front of an audience, they are most likely looking at your face as well as hearing what you are saying. Once again you need to video your presentation to see if you are already doing this to some extent unconsciously.

Panel discussion

Use the video to think about places in your presentation where you might be able to use a facial expression to add warmth to your information (with a smile) or elicit some other response from your audience as James Veitch does with his eyes.

The second type of facial expressions I am going to cover are the ones that are harder to identify amd almost impossible to manage but are still important to know about. These are “micro expressions”.

By definition they are “the innate result of a voluntary and an involuntary emotional response occurring simultaneously and conflicting with one another. This results in the individual very briefly displaying their true emotions followed by a false emotional reaction.”

What does this mean for you and your presentation? Let’s just keep it at what it means for you not what you might think you are seeing in your audience – that’s a whole other post on its own!

Without knowing it your microexpressions might be giving out a signal to your audience that is not congruent with the message of your presentation. This is most often the case when you are imparting new or controversial information. Your microexpressions will reflect your involuntary emotion (sadness, anger, fear) as it conflicts with your presentational emotion (strength, impartiality).

Once again video is going to help you identify these microexpressions so you can then listen to the words you are using to try and improve your congruity of presentation and facial expressions.

I am not going to talk at length about micro expressions as it is an area like body language that can be over emphasised and detract from your analysis of your presentation style.