How to Read your Audience using the 7 Facial Expressions

How to Read your Audience using the 7 Facial Expressions 

How to Read your Audience using the 7 Facial Expressions gives presenters and SaaS demo teams insights into their audience and helps connect them on the most basic and innate levels. There are 43 muscles in the face that, when engaged, produce 7 universal facial expressions that bely the 7 basic human emotions. What are the 7 facial expressions and 7 basic human emotions and why do they matter to demoing and presenting? Let’s answer these questions and get you that much more in tune with your audience. 

Theoretical and Scientific Background 

Charles Darwin first theorized that there are facial expressions that correspond to core emotions, and that they are the same throughout the world in the late 1800’s. It was not until the late 20th century that Dr. Paul Elkman formally studied facial expressions and emotions, proving that these facial expressions are innate, and that Darwin’s Theory was correct. Dr. Elkman studied 3 civilizations with differing access to “technology” or socialization and observed certain features. Thus, we have the 7 Universal Facial Expressions that are innate and cross cultural. 

7 Innate Facial Expressions 

How to Read your Audience using the 7 Facial Expressions, Facial Expression of Disgust

These explanations are based on this article. 

  • Anger: In the angry expression eyelids are raised and lowered in the upper and lower segments and lips are tightened. The formation of the muscles in the face are meant to show power and to serve as a warning. 
  • Happiness: Lips raised, muscles around eyes tighten, and cheeks raised. There is some debate on the origin of the smile. Researchers believe that it originated in primates to show dominance, and status in social structure, but in any event it has evolved into a good sign in your presentations and is a sign of acceptance. 
  • Surprise: Mouth open, eyebrows up, eyelids up, pupils dilated. These movements momentarily allow us to examine or engage more closely with our surroundings for danger, whether it is a good or bad event. 
  • Disgust: Brows down, nose wrinkled, lips loose, squinted eyes, and upper lip pulled up. The look of disgust, is not a value judgement, the wrinkled nose and squinted eyes serve as protective mechanisms from dangerous fumes. 
  • Sadness: Lips loose, inner corner of eyelids raised, corner of lips pulled down. Few people can fake sadness. The inner corner of eyelids is the tell tale sign of sadness. 
  • Contempt: Lip corner pulled back on one side, neutral eyes. While often coupled with anger and disgust, it is the only expression that occurs on only one side of the face. 
  • Fear: Brows and Lids raised and mouth stretched open or lips apart. This is one of the most interesting expressions because it really shows the evolutionary roots of facial expressions, wide eyes allows for the greatest vision, and the open mouth allows for the largest amount of oxygen in, if we needed to run away or are sensing a threat. 

How to Read your Audience using the 7 Facial Expressions 

When we first started exploring content that dove deeper than basic demo fails and presentation errors, we were quickly overwhelmed at the body of information available to those looking to upskill based on psychology, behavioral studies, and evolutionary anthropology. It is easy to read all the expressions above and think, oh great, another thing to remember, but don’t be intimidated. The best thing about the 7 Universal Expressions is they are innate and when we are paying attention we automatically react to others’ display. Where we have problems is in the professional environment, especially in a demo environment, even more so in a remote demo environment, we lose focus of our subconscious abilities to read facial expressions because our rational mind is running features and benefits. We can change this. 

Since we already possess the skills needed to read the 7 expressions, all we need to do in our demos and presentations, is pay attention to our audience. This sounds simple but actually takes some practice, because it requires us to learn our demo backwards and forwards in a safe environment and be present in our demo delivery to react to our audiences expressions. Demo Solutions offers coursework, training, and coaching to get your head back in your demo or presentation, and demo as a human again. 

Interested? Let’s Chat.

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