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Visual Cues

Direct eye contact with audience members is one of the most important nonverbal cues in public speaking. The speaker who spends too much time looking at note cards or staring at the floor or ceiling or the feet of various listeners fails to make use of an important advantage—the preference for direct eye contact (Cobin, 1962). As we observed in Chapter 5, many people feel that a person who continually averts his or her eyes while speaking is concealing some­thing. Like members of dyads and small groups, members of audiences seem to find eye contact particularly rewarding.

A related aspect of delivery is facial expression. Since facial cues constitute the single most important source of nonverbal communication, audiences generally favor a speaker whose facial expression is somewhat animated and varied over a speaker whose delivery is deadpan or expressionless.

Bodily action can also add to or detract measurably from a speaker's impact on the audience. For example, a relaxed but alert posture helps to communicate poise. Lecterns may be helpful for holding note cards, but at times they seem to inhibit a speaker's gestures and movements. Moving about the room frequently adds variety and interest to a speech. The speaker may take a step forward to emphasize a point, or move from one spot to another in making a transition from one main point in the speech to another. This technique is called moving on transition. Of course, a speaker who constantly paces back and forth across the room soon calls attention to these movements and away from what is being said.

Another form of bodily action involves the use of gestures of the head, shoulders, arms, and hands. In earlier times, elocutionists placed great emphasis on the value of specific gestures. One such source from the year 1644 included sixty-four descriptive analyses of hand gestures and twenty-five descriptions of finger gestures. We read, for example, that "To wring the hands is a natural expression of grief, used by those who lament" (Bulwer, 1644). Such simplistic advice persisted even into the beginning of the twentieth century, but today such techniques would be considered too affected. We value more spontaneous, natural gestures.


Date: 2015-02-16; view: 753


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