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The Visual Critic™

Learn some do’s and don’ts by watching these video clips and following the observations of Tom Mucciolo as he plays the role of The VISUAL CRITIC™.

                          Click Image to Play/Pause

On this page you will see PUBLIC performances, linked to content posted on YouTube or YouTube-like sites that host the original video content.

From a copyright perspective, the intent of these reviews is for educational purposes only. There is no recommendation, implied endorsement or promotion of the artists, speakers, or presenters.

Some of the clips are narrated observations, while other clips are referenced and reviewed in a frame-based visual analysis.

Choose from the following clips:


Observing Body Language (narrated by Tom Mucciolo)

Bill Gates is interviewed by Charlie Rose. Excerpts from the segment are analyzed from a body language perspective. Challenges and opportunities are discussed related to Conversational-izing, Virtual Space and Timelines.


2016-Presidential Debate Analysis (narrated by Tom Mucciolo)

The first Presidential debate of 2016 between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, reviewed from a Non-Verbal perspective with a focus with a focus on body language, eye contact, hand gestures, viewing angles and more.


Presidential Debate Analysis (narrated by Tom Mucciolo)

The first Presidential debate of 2012 between Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama reviewed from a Non-Verbal perspective with a focus on body language, gestures and eye contact.


Presidential Debate Analysis (narrated by Tom Mucciolo)

The second Presidential debate of 2012 between Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama reviewed from a Non-Verbal perspective with a focus on body language, eye contact, hand gestures, proximity, navigation, confrontation and speaking style.


Presidential Debate Analysis (narrated by Tom Mucciolo)

The third Presidential debate of 2012 between Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama reviewed from a Non-Verbal perspective with a focus on upper body actions, visibility of gestures, hand positions, eye contact, confrontation and speaking style.


 A visual analysis of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida

Chris Martin’s vocal tones and gestures bring this song to life. Here’s a look at some of the presentation skills being demonstrated with his personal expression. The comments, which follow after the video clip below, are identified parenthetically by time code, which you can move your mouse over (hover) to view the specific part of the four-minute clip.

Try it now by hovering over this time code (0:00
as you hold mouse over time code
) to see an example appear on the right.

Martin’s vocal expressions are evident as he uses crisp pronunciation with matching closed-off phrases. For example, the verses “Sweep the streets I used to own” (0:25
“Sweep the streets …”
), “listen as the crowd would sing” (0:51
“listen as the crowd would sing”
), and, “long live the king” (0:55
“long live the king”
) all demonstrate the closing-off of the vocal tones by finishing the words completely. In the absence of this skill, a person may accidentally “clip” the sentences by rushing into the beginning of the next phrase before closing the prior one.
His descriptive gestures become evident on “roll the dice” (0:43
“roll the dice”
) and “I held the key” (0:58
“I held the key”
), allowing the viewer to match the lyrics to a visual depiction of the story. This skill of using virtual space to let the hands describe thoughts, adds a third dimension to the content bringing it to life. His uses virtual space again when he mimics physical “structures” sung in the verse “my castles stand on pillars of salt and pillars of sand” (1:05
“my castles stand …”
).
Martin’s fluidity of motion in the body is seen during the puppet dance sequence (1:39
puppet-like dance moves
), separating his hand movements from his body actions while setting up a visual ANCHOR that shows-up a half-minute later with the actual lyric “just a puppet on a lonely string” (2:14
“just a puppet on a lonely string”
).
Reaching out gestures are clearly visible during the chorus “I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing” with a reach to the sky (2:20
“I hear Jerusalem bells …”
), but even more prominent during the 20-second sequence, from 2:45 to 3:05, beginning with “That’s when I ruled the world”, where we see an all inclusive wide embrace of the entire “world” (2:45
“That’s when I ruled the world”
) suddenly become a demonstrative targeted offer directly to the camera (2:47
Martin makes a direct “offer”
) or really to us, as viewers.
Finally, the contrasting body language sequence at the end shows a protective, unsure “fig leaf”, closed position of one band member (3:46
protective fig-leaf position
) in opposition to Martin’s open expression (3:58
open body position
). When the front of the body is revealed (open), self-confidence appears, empowering the person. This leadership quality is consistent with Martin as he claims to be someone who “ruled the world”.

Overall, I think that this music video demonstrates a number of performance elements that clearly can be used in presentation settings. You can learn a lot from musical performances — as long as you don’t try to sing your way through the content!


A visual analysis of the Broadway Cast from Pippin

Ben Vereen and the cast from the Broadway musical PIPPIN show a wide variety of expressive hand gestures in this video clip taken from the 1981 DVD. While the stage lighting enhances the characterizations, the classic Bob Fosse choreography perfectly accentuates the gestures and body actions to create complete visual expressions.

Following the video clip below, comments are identified parenthetically by time code, which you can move your mouse over (hover) to view the specific part of the nearly four-minute clip. Try it now by hovering over this time code (0:00
as you hold mouse over time code
) to see an example appear on the right.

There are a number of visual cues expressed by the performers through the constant use of open palms and reaching out gestures. Ben Vereen creates the first effect, framing his face with his invitation (0:30
framing the face
). He makes his first offer on the phrase, “we’ve got magic to do” (0:58
making a direct “offer”
) as he opens his hands to the audience. The opening of the palms signifies approachability and friendliness on the part of the person.
If you look closely on the phrase “we’ve got parts to perform” (1:05
“we’ve got parts to perform”
), the sets of floating hands on each side of Ben Vereen (circled on the image) open-up to demonstrate “perform”, and then cross over one another on “hearts to warm” (1:07
“hearts to warm”
), just as his hands naturally embrace his heart. The gestures perfectly match the words, visually describing the concepts, differentiating “perform” (openly to the audience) from “warm” (closer to the heart). This is not to suggest that you mime every phrase in your presentation; instead, you should consider linking gestures to specific concepts where you think greater impact is needed.
Vereen shows a fluidity of motion in the hands during the phrase “as we go along our way” (1:15
a fluid gesture, inviting the crowd
). Just as the camera-angle changes, notice how his right hand smoothly beckons, as if enticing the audience to get closer to the action. This movement requires the hand muscles to be extremely relaxed, yet the action requires a high degree of concentration to generate the snake-like, hypnotic movement. This is similar to Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk, where each small move of the body (toe-to-heel) must be thought-out to create the impression of gliding backwards, as if floating.
Once the actors emerge from the darkness, notice how they establish static (non-moving) gestures by locking-in on key words, such as “intrigue” (1:23
“intrigue, plots to bring disaster”
), “humor” (1:27
“humor, handled by a master”
); or, even without words, as in Ben Vereen’s two-handed “frozen” gesture to reveal the two women (1:29
“frozen” gesture for reference
); and then again, with a character expressing “illusion” (1:37
“illusion, fantasy to study”
) while freezing the hands. Gestures that freeze will have more power, especially when making an important point. When the body language of the gesture stops moving, the spoken language of the voice gets more focus. If you keep moving your hands constantly when speaking, you have two languages happening at the same time, which may become distracting. Gestures can overlap speech, but not continue simultaneously.
Examine the 25-second sequence, from 1:50 to 2:15, of the entire cast (1:51
entire cast using gestures
) as they use expressive gestures, both with the body and with the hands. See how many words you can link to specific actions of the performers, such as a repeat of the “hearts to warm” gesture (1:59
“hearts to warm” gesture
).
At a later point, the Fosse open body choreography (2:36
open body, highly confident
) is a perfect display of self-confidence. By revealing the middle of the body (the soft, vulnerable part) the message is clearly out in the open, unprotected, totally transparent. Although the hands of the dancers (2:46
open body, highly confident
) are overly exaggerated for dramatic effect, there is value in open body expressions. This action repeats again (3:20
open body, approaching
) and is heightened as the group moves toward the audience.
Finally, the entire cast makes a generous offer on the closing note (3:48
making a grand gesture (offer)
), with heads up and palms out. But as Ben Vereen takes the final bow (3:51
open palms continue the offer
), his palms face down to direct the group to bow their heads, but notice how their palms still remain open, to continue making the offer to the audience, welcoming them into their world.

The late Bob Fosse was a master of physical expression, and a lot can be gleaned from theatrical performances. As you watch this clip, you can see the value of gestures, as a means of adding a third dimension to the content, to bring the story to life.


A visual analysis of Aniket Warty, CEO of Cybertech

In this short 2-minute clip from March, 2008, posted in the public domain, Mr. Warty uses a number of directed hand gestures to emphasize certain points. His continuity is mildly challenged because of the consecutive interpretation (translation), forcing him to pause after a few sentences so that the translation can occur. Regardless of that, Mr. Warty seamlessly adds value in his delivery to engage his audience.

Following the video clip below, comments are identified parenthetically by time code, which you can move your mouse over (hover) to view the specific part of the nearly four-minute clip. Try it now by hovering over this time code (0:00
as you hold mouse over time code
) to see an example appear on the right.

The video clip actually starts with a blue-screen banner, with Aniket Warty’s first name misspelled (Ankeit), but thereafter the spelling is correct throughout the clip. The scene opens into a crowded conference room, with a lectern (podium) positioned to one side. An interpreter is on the opposite side of the room.

After his introduction, Mr. Warty moves behind the lectern, and steps up onto a small platform which allows more of his upper body to be visible, giving him the opportunity to use gestures more naturally. If you have speakers who must stand behind a lectern, consider placing a small riser (step), to give the speaker greater visibility. This helps those of shorter stature, male or female.

Mr. Warty’s greeting, “We welcome you with open arms, as you have welcomed us with open arms” makes him look approachable. His palms are visible on the words “…with open arms…” (0:29
“…with open arms”
); and, then he immediately reaches out to the group on “…as you have welcomed us…” (0:30
“…as you have welcomed us”
). Usually, gestures are naturally prompted by certain parts of speech, such as pronouns (you, us, we, this, that) and adverbs (here, there). Mr. Warty matches his words to his actions effectively.
When waiting for words to be translated into another language, many presenters are unsure as to what to do while a consecutive interpreter is speaking. Mr. Warty uses several body language cues during the translation phase. He gives focus by shifting his weight to his right foot, leaning toward the interpreter, and making eye contact (0:42
eyes “give focus” to interpreter
). Anyone still looking at Mr. Warty will notice his eye contact is directed to the interpreter, coupled with his body leaning forward, indicating that the focus has moved away from him.
Mr. Warty then takes focus by shifting his weight to his left foot (leaning-away), while making direct eye contact with the audience (0:45
weight shifts, direct eye contact
). The only negative moment in this sequence is when he looks down (0:48
breaks eye contact
), thus breaking the eye contact (connection) with the audience. Yet, with body movement and eye contact actions established (used at least once), he now only needs to use his eyes to give the focus back to the interpreter (0:55
gives focus to interpreter
). Audiences grow to understand your body language moves, especially if you use those actions consistently.
The only trade-off to having consistency in body language is how quickly any inconsistencies are noticed. When Mr. Warty mentions his own company, Cybertech, he opens up his hands, looks out, but he breaks the eye contact too quickly by looking down on the most important phrase” …is a team…” (1:16
“…is a team”
). This incongruity of having the hands open (approachable) and the eyes diverted (looking down) reduces his confidence in the “team” concept. It is critical to make your key points with actions that match one another, such as hand gestures and eye contact.
His brief inconsistency is quickly erased when he uses virtual space to signify “…motivated professionals” (1:20
“…motivated professionals”
). By using his hands to place items in the air to momentarily reference information, he helps the audience visualize the content. Mr. Warty also uses virtual space to name different countries (1:24
gestures to include countries
).
There is a gesture to the group which shows control or restriction (1:28
holding down, or sheltering?
). When the palms face down, the indication may be interpreted as trying to hold the emotions down; however, in this context it appears to be more of a sheltering move, as in gathering everyone under the same umbrella, so to speak. This is supported by Mr. Warty’s very next phrase “…achieving a common goal” (1:31
“…a common goal”
), where he uses virtual space to shape the concept by opening his hands and then moving them in unison toward the audience, as if sharing the gift of a common goal.
He has another slight inconsistency on the next key word, “…success” (1:33
“…success” directed to side
), because he offers that with a gesture to the interpreter rather than the audience. If Mr. Warty had targeted the word “success” directly to the group, using a reaching out (open palms) gesture, he would have achieved a greater impact.
During the translation phase that follows, Mr. Warty is again consistent by initially leaning toward the interpreter to give focus (1:42
gives focus by leaning-in
); and then, as he feels the translation ending, he takes focus by shifting his weight away from the interpreter (1:50
takes focus by leaning-away
).
As he closes his talk, Mr. Warty extends his arms and opens his hands to the group on his “…thank you…” to the city (1:56
“…thank you” (open)
), but he breaks the eye contact on the phrase “…for welcoming us…” (1:57
“…for welcoming us” (down)
), by looking down. This momentary diversion only slightly reduces the impact of the appreciation.
To compensate, Mr. Warty opens his palm at the very end matching the action with the beginning of a smile (2:00
open gesture with smile
), which continues as he leaves the speaking area (2:04
walks off smiling
), adding a measure of happiness to the overall speech. Although there were a few minor inconsistencies, I think that Mr. Warty demonstrates effective speaking skills by matching body language with vocal expression. In addition, his fluid transitions in the exchanges with the interpreter, allow the talk to progress smoothly.

When a TV Ad Goes Wrong – National Car Rental

National Car Rental Commercial "Robin the Presenter"A television commercial touting the business skills of a rising young executive only serves to make her look less than professional.

First aired during the 2010 Super Bowl, National Car Rental sends the wrong corporate message to would-be presenters in a corporate world.

The 30-second ad is shown below, but the first 10 seconds tell the whole story.

After watching the video, we thought that a few still-images would clearly demonstrate the many mistakes that plague the poor presenter, commercially named Robin. The voice-over narrator uses the proverbial “you” to connect the viewer to Robin’s presentation with directed phrases like “you are a business pro…” But, it takes less than 10 seconds to watch her fade from “pro” to amateur.

“Robin” the Spotlight

The commercial opens in a conference room with Robin standing directly in front of the screen. The lesson learned is that the image should never appear on your body, as the content will look distorted and difficult to decipher.

national-1

Figure 1 – Hands clasped together, standing in front of the screen.

In Figure 1, the problems mount as her body language suggests hesitancy and possible nervousness when the hands clasp together.

Usually, if a presenter is unsure of content, the hands tend to cover the more vulnerable parts of the body as a form of protection.

This action is one of the biggest mistakes made by speakers who are trying to project confidence, but imply the opposite with hands held together.

Of course, standing in the light source only draws more attention to the problem.

Visual Design is not a Piece of Cake Pie

national-2

Figure 2 – One slice too many – and it’s missing!

The background image indicates a lack of attention to visual design. With a pie chart, the eye scans the slices starting from the 12 o’clock position. In Figure 2, the starting point is a slice of 0%. How can you have 0% of something? Imagine offering a guest a slice of nothing!

While the labels (percentages) are shown inside each slice, the floating “0%” sits outside of the pie, because even PowerPoint can’t display a pie slice that doesn’t really exist.

In fact, the legend above the pie accounts for only 6 pie segments, ignoring the 0%. Imagine if someone asked for the backup data to support the missing slice?

There are other visual contrast issues. When labels are placed inside pie segments, text color may lose contrast, such as the dark text inside the darkest slice. Due to variations in data segment size and color, it is better to place labels on the outside so that font size and color can remain consistent.

The eye also navigates to the brightest foreground elements. So, for the pie chart, it is better to position the brighter color segments nearest the 12 o’clock position. But this is not done here. Moreover, although the two largest slices are brightest, they are also nearly identical in color. Compare the 35% slice in Figure 2 (above) with the 29% slice in Figure 3 (below) along with the related squares in the legend. The similarity in colors is visually confusing.

In general, the slide background color is too light, forcing the heading (Figure 1) to be darker. A white or bright background suggests a print metaphor, but slides should follow visual design rules, using darker backgrounds with lighter foreground elements. Although the attempt is made to offset the chart area in a slightly darker color, it is still too light because the legend above the pie uses darker text.

A Negative Point of View

national-3

Figure 3 – When finger point meets PowerPoint.

The narrator gives Robin the title “princess of the PowerPoint” but perhaps “flaunter of the fingerpoint” is more accurate. Figure 3 captures one of the worst gestures a speaker can make — the pointed finger.

The gesture is also mirrored in shadow and appears accusatory. If you point a finger at someone, three fingers always point back at you.

Always use an open palm to appear warm, inviting, and approachable.

The distracting delivery is compounded by her stepping into the light source, which visually splits her in two, reminiscent of a partial eclipse. How is it that the director did not see this?

Left is Right

During the entire presentation, Robin is standing opposite of the reading anchor. English has left-to-right pattern, so she should be positioned on the LEFT side of the screen, from an audience perspective. When a presenter is positioned on the same side as the reading anchor, the audience makes faster connections to content.

national-4

Figure 4 – The wrong side of the argument.

In Figure 4, she is opposite the reading anchor, partially in the light source, creating a poor line-of-sight. For those seated on her side, she blocks the view of the most current data (4th Quarter) as well as any corresponding legend that explains the bar colors.

These items are distorted when projected on her face and clothes.

Examining the slide content, clusters of bars should follow a darker-to-lighter pattern, from left-to-right.

However, by placing the brightest bar in the middle of each cluster, the eye is drawn inward to each data set, rather than across the clusters intentionally placed along a quarterly timeline. In fact, the phrase “Quarterly Results” is not an emphatic heading and does little to guide the eye to specific data.

Reading Body Language

national-5

Figure 5 – Not the way to read facial expressions.

One of the most distracting moments in a presentation is when a speaker stands directly in front of the projector, as words appear across the person’s face.

Keep in mind that when penetrating the light source you may become a walking billboard.

Figure 5 shows Robin looking completely unprofessional, wearing a less than visually appealing PowerPoint tattoo created from the legend labels that float across her forehead, nose and cheeks.

It is clear that neither a “business pro” nor a “princess of the PowerPoint” was present during the filming of this commercial.

Apparently, the ad agency responsible for the commercial failed to consult with anyone who knows how to present; or, worse yet, the agency may believe this is the norm in a business meeting. One can only imagine how the agency pitches their clients.

Of course, the fact that this was aired during the Super Bowl (and continues to run) shows that National Car Rental thinks it’s acceptable to the widest possible audience, nearly everyone on the planet. So, both the client and the agency are cast in the same poor light and, unfortunately, this really projects a poor image (pun intended).

It is disappointing that a large business entity promotes such a visually distracting environment while attempting to market services to the very business clientele they insult.

Hopefully, National Car Rental and its ad agency will consult with business professionals before making a commercial for business professionals!