You’ve probably heard of the 7-38-55 rule proposed in the 1960s by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, according to which it seems that the effectiveness of communication depends only for 7% on what we say (the words themselves, the verbal part), for 38% on the tone of voice and for 55% on body language (the non-verbal part). That’s why in the last 40 years many communication and public speaking "experts" have been suggesting that we should be focusing almost entirely on the non-verbal part to the detriment of the verbal one. In the end, what we say doesn't matter that much, does it?
In reality, this is a huge misinterpretation of Mehrabian's studies. His experiments were focused on the communication of emotions, not information. For example, he would test what happened when a person said a word like "Bravo!", but with a sad tone of voice or an aggressive body language. It's obvious that in ambiguous situations like this what you say counts less than how you say it because the non-verbal part contradicts the verbal part. But from here to state that in general the effectiveness of our communication depends only for 7% on what we say is a big jump. Try to make a presentation where you talk nonsense but you do it with an appropriate tone of voice and an effective body language. See if it works.
Mehrabian himself a while ago had included a paragraph on his website where he implored people to stop interpreting his studies in the wrong way. So let's help him! Let's help Dr. Mehrabian put an end to this myth by sharing this article. Share it with students, with your colleagues and also with those communication "experts" who persist in proposing this model as a general rule of public speaking. Because if they continue to do so, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.
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.