Coaching Body Language in the C-Suite

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The senior vice president of a Fortune 500 company is speaking at a corporate communication conference. He’s a polished presenter with an impressive selection of organizational “war stories” delivered with a charming, self-deprecating sense of humor. The audience likes him. They like him a lot.

Then, as he finishes his comments, he folds his arms across his chest and says, “I’m open for questions. Please, ask me anything.”

Suddenly, there is a shift of energy in the room – from engagement to uncertainty. The audience that was so attentive only moments ago is now somehow disconnected and unable to think of anything to ask.

I was at that event. As one of the presenters scheduled to follow the executive, I was seated at a table onstage with a clear view of the entire room. And the minute I saw that single gesture, I knew exactly how the audience would react.

Later I talked with the speaker (who didn’t realize he’d crossed his arms) and interviewed members of the audience (none of whom recalled the gesture, but all of whom remembered struggling to come up with a question).

So what happened – how could a simple arm movement that none of the participants were even aware of have had such a potent impact?
And what does this mean to the executives you coach?

In preparing for an important meeting most executives concentrate on what to say, memorizing crucial points, and rehearsing their presentation so they will come across as credible and convincing.

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