Your Face Says It All: Facial Expressions from Successfully Speaking

There is so much more to communication than just what you say. Your body language, facial expressions, and eye contact (or lack thereof) are just as important as words when you’re communicating with others. For example, consider a time that you were being interviewed. Was your interviewer serious the whole time, or did they smile? How did their facial expressions make you feel while you were being interviewed? Were you unnerved by a serious interviewer....Put at ease by someone who smiled and made eye contact? Have you seen someone deliver bad news with a smile on their face? Then you already know the importance of facial expressions for communication and how facial expression should match the emotional content.

What you may not have considered is how communicating through facial expressions actually works. First and foremost, it’s always important to be conscious and aware of your facial expressions. It can be second nature to frown when you're upset or smile when something goes your way. Once in a while, though, it’s necessary to employ a “poker face,” especially in the business world. Being able to hide your emotions with a blank face or smile when you’re upset can come in handy if you’re trying to appear neutral to a potential employer or business partner.

If you’re giving a speech or a presentation where you’re trying to make people comfortable, start out with a smile. It will show your audience that you’re happy to be there, and confident in the material that you’re about to deliver. While your smile may be a little forced (especially if you’re nervous), try to make it as natural as possible. Think of something that makes you happy before you stand up, and hold on to that thought before you begin your speech or presentation. It will make your smile seem more organic and believable. Genuine smiles travel all the way up to your eyes. 

To better understand what your facial expressions are like, and how they convey messages, take some time to make faces in front of a mirror. It may seem a little silly to you at first, but it will help you understand how your facial muscles feel when you are expressing certain emotions. Try out the 7 main emotions that are expressed through facial expressions, and then see how they compare in feeling to the real emotions in order to grasp better control of how you’re communicating.

  1. Joy
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Contempt
  5. Surprise
  6. Fear
  7. Disgust

If you have a mirror handy when you’re experiencing these feelings organically, try to take a second to see how your face looks and take stock of how your muscles feel. Understanding your personal facial expressions will help you to communicate more effectively both one-on-one and in presentation settings.

And remember to smile on the telephone! It actually comes through in your voice! 

Want to know learn more about facial expression and body language in communication? Successfully Speaking can help you learn more about yourself and what your most effective communication style is. Visit our website at, or give us a call for a FREE 15 minute consultation at 410-356-5666.


Stand Tall to Convey Power and Confidence

When preparing for a presentation, sermon, or an interview, many of us focus on “What am I going to say?” When we attend networking events, we worry about our elevator speech.  We often neglect the most important part ….our nonverbal communication! Body language influences how people perceive us. Many times, it’s not only WHAT we say, but how we LOOK when we say it.

How we walk into a room, stand in front of the audience, sit at a desk, or wait in the waiting area conveys volumes to the observer. Amy Cuddy, from The Harvard Business School, researched this area, and discussed high-power and low-power poses’ effects on our brain chemistry and confidence (1) Check out her famous TED talk  

Posture is often the first feature that is noticed. Standing or sitting posture shows the observer your confidence level.

Watch yourself in a mirror or on video.

Are you slumped forward, as if the world is carried on your shoulders? Hold your head high and keep your shoulders back. You will immediately signal confidence. Imagine you are a puppet on a string and the string maintains your proper alignment.

For those who love technology, there is a feedback device called Lumo Lift that gives you tactile reminders when you begin to slouch. I have seen rapid changes in my clients who use this device. Check it out.

Here are some tips for good posture:

  • Keep your feet planted on the ground 6-8 inches apart. One foot can be slightly in front of the other. However, do not cross your legs while standing or stand with one hip thrown forward. These postures can undermine your image of power and confidence.
  • When standing, point your feet towards the listener to show active engagement.   
  • Allow your hands to rest at your sides so you can gesture naturally. Avoid hiding your hands behind your back or in your pockets. Crossing your arms over your chest often implies that you are closed off. Fidgeting, holding your hands or arm, or touching your face while talking becomes a distraction.  Honesty, openness, and sincerity are conveyed when the audience can see the palms of your hands.
  • Watch how you hold your head. A head tilt is not as powerful, but may be used intentionally to show active listening. As your turn your head to look at the audience, turn your complete body. This squared-off posture projects power and involvement with the listener.   

As a rule, keep your heart facing the audience or your conversational partner, and sit or stand tall. Whether you are six feet tall or four foot eleven, your posture sets the stage to project a positive and powerful image!

Contact us to learn more about effective communication skills.


1. Cuddy, Amy J.C., Caroline A. Wilmuth, and Dana R. Carney. "The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-027, September 2012.