Think back over the last week and there is probably one image which sticks in your mind.
Yes, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s horizontal posture during a crunch political debate has attracted widespread criticism, been the subject of numerous headlines and opinion pieces, and seen him mocked in endless memes.
While his actions were blasted by critics for being ‘arrogant’ and ‘disrespectful’, creative social media users have used their photoshop skills to put the reclining politician in a range of scenarios, from a graph of the plunging value of the pound, to an appearance on the Simpsons’ sofa and promotion for budget bedding.
Mogg Simpson? pic.twitter.com/rPjG8kof0I— Ben K Sy (@bencullis) September 3, 2019
A rare Resting Rees-Mogg pattern spotted in sterling. Bearish. pic.twitter.com/VtsWq7IYJn— Tracy Alloway (@tracyalloway) September 4, 2019
Perhaps it was all just a bit if light-relief during an intense week, but there is little doubt the body language has become a story in its own right, and not just in the UK.
Here are some of the headlines it created.
Amid Brexit crisis, House of Commons leader infuriates lawmakers with his body language Washington Post
Jacob Rees-Mogg slammed for ‘contemptuous’ body language as he reclines in seat during Brexit debate Evening Standard
Rees-Mogg slammed for Brexit debate body language Al Jazeera
This lawmaker is taking Brexit lying down The Times of India
The Leader of the House was even asked in a subsequent doorstep interview if his body language ‘was a little bit rude?’
“I think that’s the oddest question I could possibly be asked”, he replied, before adding: “There are such important things going on.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg scolds ITV reporter as he is confronted over 'rude' Commons body language https://t.co/PBwSC4Gjca— Andrew (@Andy9786577) September 6, 2019
That may be the case, but an image can speak a thousand words.
And while this extreme slouching didn’t appear during a media interview, there are lessons here for spokespeople about the importance of good body language.
Here are six key tips:
This is the key one – maintaining eye contact with a reporter throughout an interview is crucial and illustrates trust and credibility.
Poor eye contact and wandering eyes can make spokespeople appear evasive, uncomfortable and ill-prepared. It can also be very distracting for viewers who begin to spend more time thinking about what you are looking at than what you are saying.
Knowing where to look can be particularly tricky during down-the-line interviews as you cannot see who you are talking to. The key here is to pretend you are talking to your best friend as you look into the lens, and maintain eye contact.
Some interviewees look directly in the lens and others just above it. Both options work, but it is vital focus is maintained until the end.
Shifting around nervously in a chair, fiddling with your glasses or fidgeting with your hands can all make spokespeople appear particularly nervous and out of their depth. And it can be distracting for the audience.
If you are being interviewed on TV, smiling when you are introduced by the journalist can help make you appear confident and that you are happy to be doing the interview. But tread carefully here as smiling when delivering bad news, like job losses, or when dealing with a tragic incident, sends the wrong messages.
Let’s be honest, no spokesperson is going to lounge around like Mr Rees-Mogg, but spokespeople do sometimes slouch.
This can make them appear disinterested or lacking confidence.
On our media training courses, we advise spokespeople to sit up straight, keep shoulders relaxed and keep both feet on the floor.
Not only does it look better, but it can also inject more energy in their voice.
Spokespeople sometimes nod as the journalist asks a question, possibly to show they are keen and engaged.
But the risk with this is that you end up nodding and seemingly agreeing with any negative connotations in that question.
Keep your head still.
Spokespeople can often be reluctant to use hand gestures in media interviews, even if it is something they do naturally in normal conversation.
We advise delegates on our media training courses to use them, if they feel confident doing so, as it can make them appear more natural and authentic.
It’s human nature to pick up on non-verbal clues when others speak. – bad body language can send the wrong message altogether.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
Click here to find out more about our bespoke journalist-led media training courses.