By Tim Hayes

Smart coaches in all professional sports know that to publicly criticize, call out, humiliate, or embarrass a game official means a hefty fine from the league.  Notice I said “smart” coaches.

Fans have seen coaches wig out on referees, umpires, line judges, you name it, on a regular basis.  At the corner of adrenaline and testosterone, anything can combust and usually does.

But the other day, the sporting world stumbled onto a coach who got his point across about the lousy job the officials were doing while never saying a word.  This is one smart coach.

Guy Boucher, head coach of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, after having seen enough bad and questionable calls go against his hockey players, launched into a non-verbal tirade of mockery that got his point across with no room for misunderstanding.

Boucher started making faces.  Hilarious faces.  Goofy, insulting, over-the-top faces.  Faces meant to imitate the buffoonery of the officiating crew.  One of them already has been dubbed Boucher’s “durr” face on the Internet.

I love this, for many reasons.  Its originality, its brassiness, its thumb-in-the-eye-ness, and its pure comedic value.  But it also demonstrates one of the core principles of face-to-face communication – the use of facial expression to convey a message.

Face-to-face remains the most powerful form of communication.  Why?  Simple.  Because the person receiving the message gets to interpret the full panoply of signals from the sender.  Words alone are okay, but they’re not as strong as the combination of words, voice tonality and emphasis, and body movement working together.

A famous research study done years ago at a major university yielded results that have come to be accepted as conventional wisdom.  It stated that, as people process information, they attribute 7% to the message itself, 38% to how the presenter uses his or her voice, but a whopping 55% to how the presenter uses body and facial motions.

That doesn’t mean you need to ham it up or overact when communicating face-to-face, whether across the table or at the podium in front of a crowd of hundreds.  But it does mean you need to use all of the tools at your disposal, if you truly want to communicate with power and increase the odds of strong audience retention of your message.

Politics aside, one of the best examples of how NOT to follow this advice came from President Jimmy Carter in the mid-1970s.  Go on You Tube and watch virtually any of his televised addresses, and it become obvious.  Once he had rolled out his monotone vocal approach, and his one-size-fits-all slight chopping motion with his right hand, he was out of rhetorical arrows, as it were.  God bless him, he was trying to pull us out of our national “malaise” at the time, too.  Hardly the inspirational spellbinder the times required.  And again, I’m not commenting on his politics or policies, only his shortcomings as a speaker.

People and organizations have important ideas they need to advance.  Don’t shortchange this opportunity.  Okay, maybe Coach Boucher went a little over the line in making faces to insult the officials on the ice the other night.  He even took an abuse of officials penalty for his effort.  More proof that by using that great rhetorical tool, everybody knew what he was saying – without having to say a word. 

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting