Actions Speak Louder Than Your Words

Jan 27, 2021

A well-known and maybe a little overused quote. But the truth of the matter is that actions DO speak louder and clearer than words.

You may have the perfect choice of words ready to drive a conversation (verbal communication) ,but if your actions (non-verbal communication) do not match those words, it raises a red flag.

So why are we talking about non-verbal communication?

Case in Point: A study was conducted at an MIT competitive event, wherein rising star executives were asked to present their business plan to an audience of potential investors. As a last minute addition, the contenders were outfitted with a digital sensor termed as “Sociometer” to capture various non- verbal gestures such as tonal variety, vocal nuance, physical activity, energy levels, even the number of smiles and nods exchanged between presenter and audience.

Result? The Sociometer predicted (with 87% accuracy) which business plans the investors would choose. That's because, while the investor group thought they were making rational choices, the study confirmed that their decisions were driven by a subtle set of non- verbal gestures.

The harsh truth is, the human brain decides if a person is confident before a person performs any courageous act or even speaks words. Thus, it can be argued that even before you’ve made your pitch, the potential investor/ client has already carved up a perspective on you, and made up their mind whether or not you’re worth their time or money.

As an entrepreneur, when you are wanting to engage an investor, your words AND actions are being assessed, measured and judged.

As an example, your well structured and rehearsed words may “sound” confident, but if your

  • Appearance,
  • Voice intonation,
  • Body language,
  • Eye contact,
  • Facial expressions, etc, do not resonate with your “show of confidence”, the efforts would be all in vain.

How to use non-verbal communication to your advantage?

1. Let the investor see your passion for your company: Body language is the prime communication channel of your emotions. If your natural enthusiasm for your product comes across in your vocal tone, your physical energy and animated expressions depicts your drive to be where you are today, it helps convince the investor, you’re in the right place.

Keynote: But be rationally emotional. Keep your actions limited to waist height (if above the shoulder, it looks erratic), keep your weight evenly distributed and engage through eye contact.

2. Exude confidence AND warmth: Confidence is depicted through actions such as standing tall, holding your shoulders back, keeping your head straight, speaking clearly and in a lower vocal range. To further strengthen your impression on the investor, exude warmth, empathy and likeability through signals such as open palm gestures, leaning forward(slightly), smiling and mirroring their gestures/posture.

Keynote: There needs to be a fine line between confidence and arrogance, which can be differentiated through “warm gestures''. You want to show confidence with an undertone of humility.

3. Align your verbal and non-verbal communication: When your words say one thing, and your gesture indicates another, it doesn't make sense and confuses the investor.

For instance, if an investor raises a serious concern with your product/service, and you smile while responding, it may come through as sarcasm or indifference to the question. Practice how you would react or watch your expressions, if caught off-guard.

Keynote: If investors are forced to choose between the two,they would believe what they see, and not hear.

4. Strength of a Handshake: Through your handshake you are giving out the most primitive and powerful non-verbal cue. While engaging with an investor, make sure your right hand is free for a handshake, offer your hand with the palm facing sideways (message of equality and humility), and make eye contact with a smile.

Keynote: Firm handshakes exude confidence and assertiveness, but don't be a bone crusher. Your over enthusiasm may just kill the buzz.

5. Gauge your audience: If your investor is engaged it would show through head nods or tilts, open body postures, longer eye contact. If however, they are disengaged you would see signals such as a “cold shoulder” (angle their body away from you), decreased eye contact or closed body posture (crossed arms or legs).

Keynote: Signs of engagement show you’re onto the right track, but if the investor seems disengaged, ask questions to steer the conversation to their liking.

Conclusion: Ultimately, someone who wants to do business with you, would want to be assured that you’re confident about the idea you’re selling, because if you don't show confidence in your product, then why should they?

It's not just your pitch deck, but also your “pitch” that would drive home the point!

Author(s) :
Swadha Agarwal     
Brijesh Damodaran Nair