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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0029 | November 27, 2001
7,500 Subscribers

Presence and Presenting Skill

Body Talk

Understand the basics of non-verbal communication.

The Point?

Your participant's body language never lies and can tell you a lot if you know what to look for. Of course, as facilitators, we know better than to assume anything. So as you become adept at reading body language, be careful not to use this information to fuel your assumptions. 

Consequently, our first tip is to always test your observations of body language to increase awareness. If participants appear bored, angry, or frustrated, then they probably are! But always check this out with them first just to be sure. For example, you might say, "I'm noticing that many of you are slouching and fidgeting in your chairs, will someone please share with me what you're experiencing right now?"  If you sense that a body is telling you something, check in with the person to find out what it is. 

This leads to examining the congruence between body language and verbal language. For example, laughing while describing a very painful experience is incongruent behavior and should be checked out with participants. This incongruence indicates that something is amiss.

The "movement" aspects of Body Language can provide clues about how one conducts other aspects of their lives, i.e. patterns of behavior that they might not be consciously aware of.

It's also important to be attuned to cultural differences in body language that could be present among your participants. So as always, when in doubt, check out your perceptions with your participants.  

Finally, it pays for you to be conscious of the power of your own body language to engage the audience. For instance, use open posture; stand where you can be seen by all; when you move, move deliberately and for a purpose; use gestures to strengthen or enhance your communication; don't use podiums or other objects to hide behind; make regular eye contact with everyone; and be expressive, amplifying what you are feeling and saying with your facial expressions and your body gestures.


We've included a link to a simple activity we've found extremely valuable in the past called the "A to B Exercise."  It's a great deal of fun and can be conducted with one participant at a time, or the entire group to catch group patterns. Using only the language of physical movement, it provides great clues as to how we run our lives. Both effective and ineffective patterns may become evident through this exercise.

We've also included some body language tips, both positive and negative, courtesy of the Third Age Website, that you can use as facilitators. Look for these ques and check them out in your groups, or use them yourself to improve your presentations.

Positive Body Language

Negative Body Language

Direct eye contact (no staring)

Warm, open smile (teeth revealed)


Head tilted

Open, inclusive gestures (palms showing)

Fully facing others

Leaning forward

Upright but relaxed posture

Firm handshake

Double hand clasp handshake

Feet firmly planted

Chin up

Sitting forward

Eyebrow flash upon greeting-

Eye contact not met

Tight or no smile

Down and away or dropped glances

Not fully facing, at an angle

Leaning away

Hunched shoulders

Too-stiff posture

Weak handshake

Chin into chest

Arms crossed or Legs crossed

Body sagging

Legs outstretched while seated

Absentminded gazes





Your assignment this week is to practice observing body language--that of others and your own. We're interested in hearing what you discover. Please email us about your experiences or if there's something we've missed, we'd love to get your perspective on it!

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey 
What do you do in your role as a Facilitator to build your group's trust, 1) between members, and  2) of you as the group leader?

We'd appreciate your thoughts on the above question or anything you know about trust-building that might be valuable for other readers to know. We may use your responses as a resource for future issues of the journal or for other works.  Please email us your responses. All those who respond will be sent the entire collection of responses. Thanks so much for your consideration of my request.

Thanks for your help in making the Master Facilitator Journal the best facilitation resource site on the web!

Skill Related Resource
Body Language Quiz
We thought you might enjoy this fun Body Language Quiz at the Third Age Website. It's a fun 14-question quiz that has you look at your probable body language responses in a party atmosphere. Then it gives your "body language style" and offers tips you can use to make it more effective. Though the intent of this site is to improve your attractiveness to the opposite sex, the information is useful in understanding the impact and interpretation of body language.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spotlight


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These products would make great gift ideas for friends, clients, and relatives you care about and whom you want to give something of value that will improve their life experience and effectiveness.

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Warmest Regards,

Steve Davis

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on December 4, 2001. 


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