Activities + Tips

Communicating With Imagery

Your great, great, great grandmother comes back from the dead and she is setting at the kitchen table with you. Out of nowhere she says” I’ve been hearing a lot about this internet thing. What is it anyhow?” Explain to granny what the internet is in terms that she can understand. Credit for this activity goes to an old friend. Ken Bellemare. It is adapted from a book he co-authored called Whizbangers available at He uses corporate magic and games to help communicators get their message across.

Curl your Toe

Notice how you perceive those who have a lot of upper body movement. Whether you are making a presentation to staff or doing an interview, too little or too much upper body movement distracts and reduces credibility. If I tell you that you have too much upper body movement, that may help. If I tell you to curl your right toe, the upper body movement will be reduced to just the right amount. This applies in front of the board and in front of a camera.

The Reminder

Splayed fingers can indicate fear. Finding the right balance between splayed and closed fingers with open gestures can be as individual as the cultural background you have. I had one client who, when presenting, constantly showed his unease with splayed fingers. After many attempts at reducing this action, a couple of rubber bands wrapped around his fingers reminded him of his problem which disappeared during our session together. The bands were removed and his hand movements became more comfortable and we could then work on other hand movements as a replacement for the splayed finger activity. Hand movements are complicated and there are many possible interpretations. You may be familiar with Bill Clintons “I didn’t have sex with that woman” statement and how one of the finest communicators in the world at the time pointed his fingers at the nation and by doing so cast doubt on the truth of his statement. Yet, a single pointed finger may not be a huge problem if the exposure to it is short enough.


The Pope, the Queen, Barack Obama and Osama Bin Laden share this. Slower hand movements. Quick hand movements distract and are magnified on stage or in front of a camera. Slow hand movements establish credibility and show confidence.

Your Message

You’re told you need one. How do you do it? What should your message be? Of course, every message contains different content. In general terms, it recognizes any victims first, has a positioning statement off the top and is followed by three key points. Each key point contains an analogy, metaphor, example or statements of fact. More than three messages usually results in a loss of control of the message taken away by an audience or journalist. You also need to identify sensitive issues and be prepared to address them in ways that permit you to return to one of your three main messages. As well, you need a listing of hot words (sensitive words you do not want to use or at least repeat). One of the benefits of messaging is it permits you to identify roads you do not want to go down.

Build Sandwiches

Answers to questions should be like a sandwich. There should be a positioning statement on the top and on the bottom with the meat in the middle. To demonstrate the point:

  • Position—We oppose this position because....
  • Meat—To allow it would be like (colorful statement, analogy, or example)
  • Position—And that’s why we can’t go along with this...because.

Sandwiches must be about 15 seconds long, must be honest, must quickly demonstrate your position and should wrap up by restating your position.

Fun Body Language Chart

Pointing a finger at your listener or tapping it on desk Appears very aggressive.  Listener shuts it out.  Use open language
Hands behind head leaning back in chair.  Egotistical, superiority attitude
Hand on neck Person you are talking to is a pain in the neck. 
Blocking view by shielding eyes with hands or turning eye contact You don’t believe what you are saying / they can’t read you
Crossed arms Defensive action.  You don’t want to talk about it or you haven’t decided your position..  You could also be cold. 
Chin on hands  Bored
Playing with a pen or something in your hands  Bored/nervous
Open Body Language  
Leaning forward Listening
Nodding Understanding.  Don’t do this on camera
Head tilted (When listening) Open to hearing the facts.  Don’t do this on indicates a weak position
Open palms I believe this.  Honest gesture.
Back of neck You are a pain in the neck
Face earlobe You don’t believe what is being may know it is not true.
Touching other person’s arm Establishes relationship
Vocal Tone  
Ends on a high note Positive—open
Ends on a low note Negative—closed
Smiles Willingness to help-you can hear smiles too

Remember repetition is the key to interpreting body language. If they do it once, it may not mean anything. Here are a few of the common ones.


Be a Solution

Reporter wanting controversy in a story and a solution. When you are interviewed, explain how you are part of the solution. Never—For security or competitive reasons, you may have to avoid revealing all you know at that particular time, but never lie. Be forthright with the truth. When Stung by a Headline remember— newspapers have writers who write the headlines. So don’t blast the reporter for something he/she didn’t write. The reporter probably doesn’t like it either. Oops- Many people think that because the tape is rolling, what they say is somehow written in stone. If you flub a line or make a mistake, ask to do it again. Drawing a Blank? -When you lose your train of thought or draw a blank, step out of the interview and say, “I lost my train of thought. Can I have a moment to think about that?” Ask For Help-Prior to an interview, get help from your managers and public relations professional in anticipating questions and designing the messages you want to be delivered. Don’t do this alone or you will miss important details.

Employees Prepared?

Employees should know who comments for your organization in the event of a crisis situation. It’s too late when the reporters are at your door talking to employees who are treating the reporters poorly or saying things they shouldn’t.

Take Control

Consider taking immediate control of the interview before the first question is asked. Say “I know we talked earlier about this...I‘ve thought about what I would like to say…most important is….

Power of Sitting

Everyone has a zone of dominance. If you are right handed, hold your hand straight out in front of you and sweep 90 degrees to your right. For most right-handers, that will be your zone of dominance. Lefties usually have a zone that goes to the left.

It’s an important zone because you feel more capable and able to communicate when speaking to people who are in your zone of dominance (try it and you will notice the difference). Use the zone to strengthen your position. For instance, if you have an adversary on an issue, you could place yourself directly across the table from the adversary which will make the situation more adversarial….or can sit in the zone of dominance of your adversary which makes it more likely that the person will hear your point of view and tensions will be reduced.

Power rests at the head of the table. But sitting at the side of the table can be the position of someone looking for consensus. Smart organizers who want the consensus seeker to have power will place the side seat so it faces the entrance to the room. The person who sits facing the entrance draws authority from controlling who comes and goes while encouraging consensus.

Classic Headlines

Include Your Children when Baking Cookies
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted
Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents
Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Lung Cancer in Women Mushrooms
Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Stolen Painting Found by Tree
Never Withhold Herpes Infection from Loved One
War Dims Hope for Peace
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last a While Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Deer Kill 17,000
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half