Karen Laos, the senior manager of program delivery at Deck Communications and a communications coach, began her Forté Women Lead Webinar in February with an analogy: communicating is like driving. Before you start your car, you research your route and account for roadblocks on the way. You focus on where you’re going and how to get there. Giving a presentation or leading a meeting requires similar preparation. “The biggest problem is people set out to inspire and they end up informing,” Laos said. “We get stuck in our PowerPoint slides and our data and we lose a little bit of our natural personality.” But a set of key behaviors can allow speakers to appear both credible and comfortable. Adapting body language. According to a study Laos cited during the webinar, only 38 percent of people remember the verbal component of any given message and 55 percent of credibility comes across visually. Since audiences are more likely to remember how the speaker stands, looks, and interacts with the audience, it is essential to be mindful of body language and words when preparing a presentation. Eye contact and facial expression are the two physical traits Laos believes anyone can moderate to seem warmer and more personable. Though it sounds simple, holding eye contact in a one-on-one conversation, let alone a group meeting, can be difficult. In a large setting, Laos encourages her clients to hold eye contact with a listener for three to five seconds. Most people, she said, maintain contact for only one second, which can make it “look like we are nervous or even untrustworthy.” Facial expression can be equally as impactful, Laos said. In leading trainings previously in her career, Laos was told her intense expression could sometimes come off as frustrated, not focused. “I would be so focused on getting my content perfect…that I would get this furrowed brow on my face and I would look kind of mad or annoyed,” she said. “You cannot sacrifice connection for perfection.” Becoming influential. In addition to behavioral and physical practices, Laos shared her three-step “framework for influence.” It begins by asking yourself a simple question: “What is the one thing I want my listener to remember?” Whatever the answer is, lead with it. This first step is like the headline of a news article. It should be a “quick hit phrase,” one that sums up your message and leaves your listeners wanting more. To learn the second and third steps of how to deliver effective and memorable messages that will inspire listeners to take action, watch the webinar on demand. A full library of previous Forté webinars are available to Premium Access Pass members. For $100/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars. If your company is a Forté sponsor you may be entitled to free Access Pass. Check our sponsors to see if your organization is involved. Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resumé to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.