I watched a video a while ago—The hidden power of smiling—where Ron Gutman presented some studies about smiling with fascinating results. For example, in one study researchers showed that there is a significant correlation between the degree to which a person smiles and how long and rewarding his or her marriage would be.In another study they showed a correlation between one’s smile and his or her performance in standard wellness tests. And again, a correlation between a person's smile and how much that person would be of inspiration to others. They even discovered a correlation between a person's smile size and the length of his or her life. The wider your smile, the longer you’ll live. Obviously correlation doesn’t imply causation, still these are interesting results that at least are worth considering.
Smiles are powerful because they are universal: in all cultures people smile to express joy and satisfaction. Not only that, smiling is contagious. If I smile, those around me will also smile. That’s why when we are surrounded by children we tend to smile more—because children smile much more than us adults (up to 400 times a day!).
Charles Darwin said that the very act of smiling makes us feel better. If we feel good, we smile, but the opposite is also true: we feel good if we smile.
Ron Gutman cited another study that showed how a smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as 2,000 chocolate bars. And the same study suggests that smiling is just as stimulating as receiving £16,000 in cash!
Smiling also helps you make a good first impression. And when you smile, you not only look more likeable and courteous, but also more competent.
Therefore, if there is one thing we can do to improve the impact of our presentations, it’s to smile a little more. In our evolutionary path we’ve developed a powerful ability to "read" other people simply by looking them in the eyes. Even a small change in the eye muscles helps us determine not only how a person feels, but also whether or not we should trust them. And when we present, the audience does that with us.
Research shows that when two people look at each other, mirror neurons are activated, which make us feel what the other person is feeling. Therefore, if I'm nervous, my audience will also feel a little nervous. But if I smile to express joy and satisfaction, the audience will also smile. Thanks to mirror neurons, the brain of the speaker and the brain of the listeners are synchronised and the more we trust the speaker (albeit instinctively) the more this synchronisation is strengthened. And what’s the best way to convey trust? Smiling.
If you'd like to learn more about how to make better presentations, download my report Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Creating Business Presentations.