How to Read Body Language - Tips for Trainers

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How to Read Body Language - Tips for Trainers

When running training courses, it's important to pick up on signs from delegates and also understand how you present themselves. In this blog post Shaun (who runs our Train the Trainer courses) explains how body language and communication is just as important as what you say when running effective workshops.

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It & What You Look Like

The impact we make on others results not only from what we say and how we say it but also from how we look. With communicating emotions it may surprise you to know that body language and voice tone account for 93%:

  • 55%  Body language
  • 38%  How we say it
  • 7%    Words we use

People may be using non-verbal communication, consciously or otherwise, to show you their needs.

For example: Delegates are often reluctant to ask for help directly, but do give hints in the hope that someone will notice and ask.

Although body language will tell you a lot, do check out what you see to avoid misinterpretation.  You can do this simply and directly.

For example: "You look like you disagree, is that how you feel?"

Remember that body language varies with cultural background.  What is common in one culture may be rare in another.  Some people, for example the British and Japanese, do very little touching of each other in conversation; others such as those from Mediterranean countries make frequent physical contact.

Don't forget that first impressions are important, people make character assumptions very quickly, and training becomes very difficult if delegates get the wrong impression.

Reading the signals

This is generally common sense. Many of the signs can be easily read and understood. However, always clarify with verbal communication.


When understanding a single gesture or look, it can be misinterpreted or given more significance than it has. If facial expression, body posture and tone of voice are all saying the same thing, your reading will be more accurate.

Congruence or lack of it

When what someone says is at odds with how they say it, or the way they look. For example: When a delegate says “Yes, fine, no problem,” said with a frown, a sigh and their head in their hands.

Eye contact

A lack of eye contact may give the impression someone is not listening – you may need to engage them a little more. As a trainer you need to try and give equal eye contact to everyone in the session.

Facial expression

Try to be relaxed with a smile. If someone looks confused clarify that they have understood.


Be upright and with an open body posture. Notice if participants are looking bored and get them involved or use an energiser.


Notice pitch, nerves, volume, clarity, pace.

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