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Albert Mehrabian and the “it’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it” rule.

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

“Heard of Albert Mehrabian? Probably not. But you’ll almost certainly have heard his work quoted or, more likely, misquoted: that 55% of face-to-face human communication is non-verbal; 38% is para-verbal (that is, to do with the tone and volume); and that only 7% of meaning is derived from the actual words spoken.

There was nothing wrong with the UCLA professor’s original research back in the 1970s. His sample was small and the circumstances narrowly defined. But that didn’t stop the media misinterpreting the results and Mehrabian’s work has been misrepresented ever since.

The fact is that as a presenter words are your principle tool for communicating. And whilst I have no empirical evidence to quote, I’d hazard a guess that in most presentations your words account for nearer 93% of meaning than the remaining seven. If so, then the words you speak are important. The words you choose are important. The way you put those words together is important. In short words are important.”


This is an excerpt from Speak Easier, Richard Uridge’s excellent little treatise on presentation and public speaking skills which is available to download now for the special price of just £4.99.

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