The face is called the “organ of emotion” because we depend on reading facial expressions to understand what others are feeling. We “encode” messages in our facial expressions, and simultaneously we “decode” the faces of people around us.
The science behind audience perception
University of California San Francisco professor Paul Ekman is known as the Human Lie Detector. His extensive research on the science of emotions shaped the animated film Inside Out. The film personifies five emotions: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness, and Joy, which fight for control of 11-year-old Riley’s mind. To match Riley’s external emotions to her inner conflict, Director Pete Docter utilized Ekman’s concept of facial coding, “which measures and codes different facial expressions across cultures into a concrete set of emotions shared by humans.” The film’s huge success is largely due to its effort to reflect real, recognizable human emotions.
You can’t fake authenticity
Just as the audience was able to perceive Riley’s outward emotions, the audience of any on-camera presentation will be able to perceive their emotions. Facial expressions play a central role in our impression of credibility. Our faces give our fears and insecurities away and can show whether we are telling the truth. When someone tries to conceal their expression, “leakage” of that emotion can be read through the face as a micro expression.
Expressions build your credibility
When you express your message in an honest way that embraces emotion, whether it be remorsefulness during an apology or joy when announcing a highly anticipated company merger, you build trust with your audience. But if you arrive to the recording session with baggage from a bad day, that bad day will enter the communication. In my last blog post, I shared a few ways you can improve your pre-performance mind-set routine.
As a leader going on camera, you have to be purposeful not only about your message, but also about how you’ll present it. Being in front of the camera is intimate. Your face occupies thousands of pixels on screen—and your audience will be able to intuit the feeling behind the words you say.