Ramona Smith, a 31-year-old Houston teacher, has faced many challenges, including coaxing her son through cancer and struggling through a divorce.
But Smith believes life is about more than what knocks you down, it’s about the lifelines people offer to help you back up.
One of Smith’s lifelines was the mentorship she found in Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. In her 2018 speech, “Still Standing,” Smith posed as a fighter on stage and talked about surviving round after round with life but bouncing back again. Her accomplishments include dropping out of college four times (before graduating at the top of her class) and, most recently, being crowned the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in Chicago.
Smith outlasted 30,000 other competitors over six months of competition before being named the champion in August. Her success comes not only from her will to fight but from one speaking technique that helped her connect:
“If my hands are open to the audience, and my fists are not closed, and my arms are not too tight toward my body, it just makes the audience feel more connected, like I’m really open,” Smith said. “I’m vulnerable, and I want to give you all of me. And it makes me look relaxed and comfortable.”
Dananjaya Hettiarchchi, a human-resources specialist who won the Toastmasters competition in 2014, broke down the effectiveness of this technique:
“If you really concentrate, when you look at the inside of your palm, your eye relaxes,” Hettiarchchi said. “And a lot of great speakers, they open their palms towards the audience, showing more openness. And that allows the audience to connect with the speaker better, as opposed to showing the back of your hand.”
If a simple gesture can have such an impact, what other nonverbal communication can increase our impact? Check out these tips from some of the world’s most personable communicators to increase your own credibility.
Remember, the most important visual you can show your audience is yourself! Sharpen non-verbal communication skills and reap the benefits of credibility and respect!