As usual, researchers invest significant amounts of time, money and effort into establishing what common sense tells us anyway. From this article:
Synchronous presentation of stimuli to the auditory and visual systems can modify the formation of a percept in either modality. For example, perception of auditory speech is improved when the speaker's facial articulatory movements are visible
What this means to you, me and the average presenter is that members of your audience will understand you better, and receive your message more clearly, if they can see your face. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know why. Imagine that you are witness to a presentation being delivered by a Wizard of Oz type of character who is hiding behind a curtain. What are you missing?
Let’s alter the question, and ask, instead, what seeing the presenter gives us.
- Their facial expressions give us added clues about what they are trying to convey. An expression of distaste might communicate something that is missing from the verbal message alone. Facial expressions are subtle (sometimes not so subtle!) supplements to the intended message.
- Body language is a useful tool that helps the presenter get their message across. Whether it be via the use of hands and gestures, or the mere cocking of the head quizzically, body language can deliver extra pieces of communication by a different channel.
There are many verbal clues that we can pick up from the voice, but how many times have we got “the wrong end of the stick” when talking to someone on a telephone. Miscommunications abound when we are denied the pleasure of seeing the speaker’s face. Such miscommunications often would not occur if the speaker and listener could see each other.
What does this mean to you and me? We should ensure that:
- Our audience can see our faces when we are talking to them. This means that lighting must be good, and obstructions (e.g. that Wizard of Oz curtain) should be removed. Don’t hide behind a computer screen. Unless you ain’t no oil painting, of course, and then it’s to be recommended. Actually, the information on this page is not meant for ugly fuckers.
- We express ourselves appropriately. If we are talking about exciting new developments, we can show that excitement in our facial expressions as well our voices.
- We distribute handouts judiciously. There must be a balancing act between offering handouts that are helpful and overloading our audience with too many handouts that distract them from actually looking at us as we talk.