You are well into another meeting and suddenly the solution strikes you. You’re ready. Now is your time to shine! You’ve just got a brilliant idea! Finally, a solution to the problem the team‚ has been struggling with.

You present your idea, but no one seems to pay much attention, they just keep on going kicking around ideas. Out of the blue, that guy sitting across the table (you know the one) actually interrupts and paraphrases what you just said no more than five minutes ago. And suddenly, it’s his idea. He’s the genius‚ not you.

What just happened? Did that guy steal your idea‚ or did you give it away?

You’re the expert, the one with the credentials‚ and it was your idea. So why did everyone listen to the other guy instead of you? Perhaps because your body sent a different message than you thought it did.

You may have been using the right words, but the wrong nonverbals. Unless you plan to filibuster next time you have the floor, it’s time to harness the power of your body language, by using nonverbals that project confidence in yourself and others.

Use Your Posture to Project Confidence

If you’re moving about the room while you are talking, move with intent, no pacing. If you’re standing still, have your weight on both feet, posture erect. Put your forearms in one of the three following positions: waist-high in front of your body, both arms at your sides, or a combination (one arm at your side and the other forearm at your waist parallel to the ground). If seated, keep only your wrists, comfortably on the table, hands resting together but not clasped. No forearms and certainly no elbows. No slouching. Back straight to create erect posture.

Use Your Voice to Project Confidence

Once you begin to present your idea, use a slow smile. A fast, big grin at the beginning lowers your value in the eyes of the listener. Use more eye contact than you normally do. Limit blinking. If seated, you can lean forward and put your forearms comfortably on the table as you get to the real “juicy” part of your brilliant idea.

Keep a calm cadence in your voice, with clear articulation and pacing of words. Use the credible voice pattern. A credible voice pattern maintains a flat sound until the end of the phrase or sentence. As you end each sentence, drop the chin slightly—that’s the nonverbal period (it also drops the tone of your voice). People in higher positions within a business or people who have positions of authority usually use the credible voice pattern. Practice listening for the credible voice pattern, you will soon see how it commands attention. It maintains an even steady tone until the end. Remember the famous line: "Bond, James Bond".

The other voice pattern—the connection pattern—is used for developing friendships or seeking information. This voice pattern ends each statement with the voice going up just a bit—like a little question mark. Traditionally, those in support or service positions use this pattern. Save the connection voice pattern for creating an emotional connection or building relationships, not for offering your brilliant solution.

Use the Nonverbal Pause to Project Confidence

Use short pauses between segments of statements and a longer pause at the end of each statement. Pause longer and more frequently than you normally do. During each pause, breathe. Inhale completely, filling the abdomen while keeping your head and lips perfectly still.

I know, I know. You think it was the pause is what got you in trouble in the first place. That’s when they all started talking again and the next thing you know other guy jumped in and stole your idea.

Let me tell you a true story—

A friend of mine comes from a large family. Whenever the family got together for holiday dinners, my friend’s husband had trouble being heard. He got frustrated because members of his wife’s family constantly interrupted him when he was talking—sometimes in mid sentence. His wife said that was just the way her family operated. To tell the truth, she said, family members have a tacit agreement—almost an inside joke: If someone is talking and they pause, that’s the time to jump in—sort of like “If you snooze, you loose.” Well and good‚ until my friend’s husband learned how to use his body language not only to hold the floor during the pause, but to make the family members want to know what’s coming next.

As he began his pause, he gestured with his arm, then froze his gesture mid-air, (as in not moving). The frozen gesture indicates there’s more, “I’m not done.” He chose a sideways palm gesture to indicate "I'm serious," as he was serious, he wanted to be heard. It worked much to his amazement.

He finally shared with family members what he was doing to be heard over the long-standing tradition. Soon, other family members started using a frozen gesture when they paused if they “wanted to hold the floor.” Paradigm shift—family style. The sideways palm gesture says that your idea is important but it’s open to discussion. (If it’s not open to discussion, use a palm down gesture.)

Timing and Duration of the Gesture

If you are using a gesture such as the sideways palm when you speak, and then drop or complete the gesture when you pause to breathe, it’s as good as saying, “I’m done speaking.” But if you hold the gesture still throughout your pause, you hold the floor. It’s as if you said, “But wait, there’s more.”

Holding a gesture still in mid-air during a silent pause holds people’s attention. The key is not to move or change the gesture until you’re done with the pause, and the next words start to come out of your mouth. Not only is the gestured pause a good way to hold the floor, it helps connect what you previously said to what you are about to say. If you really want to increase the anticipation of what’s coming next, hold the silent, gestured pause a second or two longer than you normally would, lean slightly forward, and have the next words come out as a whisper.

Remember, your perception of yourself affects how others see you. If you want to be taken seriously, use nonverbals that say, “I’m confident, I’m comfortable, I’m open, and I have something important to say.”

Author's Bio: 

Sharon Sayler, MBA, is a Communications Success Strategist who trains professionals on how to become stronger, more influential communicators and leaders. Sharon's new book She teaches professionals to match their body language to what their mouth is saying. What Your Body Says (and how to master the message) is available at

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