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How presenters are presenting a lot more than their message

When you are watching a presenter, you learn a lot about them even if you pay little attention to their words. Are they confident, passionate, authoritative? Or nervous, bored or unconvincing?

As Gregory Bateson once said, there’s communication and there’s communication about communication. He called that ‘meta-communication’, messages about messages.

When you are alert to meta-communication, you start noticing how people qualify their own messages, intentionally or not. Those are also significant messages. With their ‘ums’ and ‘ers’, they are distracting your attention from their words to their hesitancy, and you’ll draw as much meaning from that as from their verbal message.

That’s why it matters for a presenter to keep their message consistent with their meta-message. Speak like a leader about leadership, like an enthusiast about the project that you wish to see happen. Otherwise your words will be the least of your audiences’ memories.


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