Would you invest nearly 2 hours to watch a movie with one character, stranded in the ocean, with less than two dozen words of total dialogue?
I thought it was a ridiculous premise, but against my better judgment, watched the movie ‘All is Lost,’ starring Robert Redford. Wow, was I ever wrong. This is a powerful experience that should be studied by anyone who gives presentations. While it is a testament to the power of resilience and persistence, it is also a textbook example of how non-verbal communication can convey a range of emotions and tell a story. It supports the concept that in speaking, ‘less is more.’
The importance of non-verbals was reiterated to me recently by World Champion speaker Darren LaCroix. He taught me that most speakers spend far too much time worrying about ‘body language’ and gestures. To Darren’s point, your body will naturally gesture when you are telling your story authentically.
He also reminded me that most people ignore their most important visual tool – the face. It can convey emotions and insight into characters and situations that words cannot. Most speakers ignore this. Why use a string of sentences to tell an audience you’re happy, sad, or angry, when you can express those emotions with your face?
An additional benefit to using your face is that it helps create a ‘you-are-there’ feeling for your audience. It’s as if they are in your scenes, that they are part of your story.
That is the power that Robert Redford brings to ‘All is Lost’. The story is of a nameless man, trapped at sea. He faces one challenge after another and needs every bit of ingenuity he can muster to survive. In every situation, he expresses his emotions through his face – concern, frustration, fear, anger, exasperation, helplessness, and hope, among many others.
Additionally, you are able to discern the type of man he is through his resourcefulness. He makes the situation seem plausible, and you are with him emotionally from start to finish.
I encourage you to study this film. Watch each scene for shifts in his expressions that tell you what he is feeling in that moment. Then, go back to a story you are working on. Look for either dialogue or scene descriptions that can be substituted with facial emotions. It takes practice, but you will begin to connect with your audience on a deeper level because rather than being talked at, they’ll feel you’re with them, taking them along on your journey.
In deference to my friend Darren, whose mantra is ‘Stage Time, Stage Time, Stage Time,’ I leave you with this suggestion… ‘Face Time, Face Time, Face Time.’
© 2014 – 2015, Michael Davis. All rights reserved.