How to be expressive with your face

How to be expressive with your face

3 Ways to be more expressive with your face 

While you may think that your words are the most important part of any presentation, your body language comprises anywhere from 50-70% of what you actually communicate.   Imagine you’ve just bitten into a lemon. Now think about what you would do with your face.  You might scrunch your eyebrows.  Now imagine you are a lion roaring.  How would your face change? You might widely open your mouth and eyes then show your ferocious teeth.

These are two simple facial expression warm ups that can start you on your journey to considering  how you can use your body language to convey your message.  

Today we are going to look at the 3 parts of your face that will help you convey and control the different emotions you might utilize when you are on stage.  

Facial expressions

There are 7 major facial expressions that you can use as tools for greater impact of your messages.  Whether it is a presentation in a meeting,  a doctor talking to a nurse, an artist talking to an investor, or in your home negotiating something with your family, facial expressions are very important. The 7 expressions are below and today we will briefly outline how you can begin to use your face to convey them effectively. 

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Surprise
  • Contempt
  • Anger
  • Fear
Expressions with eyes

The Eyebrows

One of the most expressive parts of your body are your eyebrows. Try raising your eyebrows right now. Stereotypically if you raise and arch your eyebrows people generally interpret  this expression as surprise.  If you lower them and knit them together  it can mean anger, sadness or fear. And lastly if you draw in the inner corners this is how you usually show sadness.  

If you Imagine someone telling you a really sad story you might instinctively start drawing in the corners of your eyebrows. Those are the 3 major things you can do with your eyebrows. Some of you are very talented and you can make your eyebrows wiggle and maybe even crazier feats but those are not common expressions. 

The 3 general motions you can manipulate with your eyebrows are: 

  • Raise and arch
  • Lower and knit together 
  • Or you can draw the inner corners
Expressions with Eyebrows

The Eyes

The eyes are the Windows to the Soul! If you blink really fast that generally means discomfort or distress.  If your eyes are dilated it generally is used to show interest or arousal but that’s not what today’s blog is about 😉 If you stare very intently at someone it usually shows attention or anger.  Or if you look away it generally shows discomfort or distraction. If you are on screen during a virtual presentation and keep looking away the entire time your audience would think you were  distracted and not present for them.  Try to be conscious of these cues because when you are on stage or on screen you don’t want your eyes to communicate a conflicting message.  

The Mouth

Expressions with Mouth
  • A dropped jaw is usually surprise
  • An opened mouth is usually fear
  • If you raise one side of your mouth it is usually hate or contempt
  • If you raise the corners it is otherwise known as a smile 
  • Lower the corners of your mouth is the classic signal for sadness

The lips

If you put you lips together it can also be both contempt or distaste.

Let’s put all these together

These are the three parts you have to work with when it comes to facial expressions. Now I realize all of this has been super obvious so the bigger question remains: can you use them?

I would like you to do a few exercises in the comfort of wherever you are at the moment. Forgive me for using a few stereotypes here but I’d like you to channel your inner Italian, your inner french.  There are many expressive cultures and there are also a number of cultures that are quite reserved but for this exercise I want you to think outside of the expressive norms in your culture and put on a different “hat” today..  I want you to really exaggerate these expressions just for practice so that you can execute them at will for the expressive purposes you desire.

Below is an exercise that will benefit you as a communicator, increasing your ability to leverage the power of your face.

I want you to write a 2 minute story that conveys 3 distinct emotions.  You will then share this with someone you live with, one of your friends, or with a colleague virtually.  You are tasked with taking this person on an emotional  rollercoaster. When you come up with your story, practice the facial expressions that will convey your 3 emotions and then share that story with your partner.  Be sure to let them know that you will be asking for their feedback so they can pay close attention to you.  

The facial features you can use are:

  • Eyebrows
  • Eyes
  • Mouth/lips

When you are finished ask them 4 questions

  • what worked
  • what didn’t work  
  • what had potential
  • what could have been a little better

That is the entire exercise: 3 emotions in 2 minutes.  Ask the person listening if you were able to convey the emotions not just with your words and your tone but also your face. 


Being an effective communicator involves more than just crafting the right message. In our visual world we often take in more information with our eyes than the words we hear or read. Use this to your advantage as a speaker to keep your audience engaged and to increase the impact of your message. You can take your speaking career to the next level if you can have greater control over these 3 basic areas of facial expression.  As always I would love to see your progress so please share a link of your 2 minute video in the comment.  Your potential is limitless if you start now, start simple. 

Dan Ram ignites the stage as an in-person event and virtual event EMCEE & Speaker at over 100 events a year.  He has shared the stage with international luminaries including President Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Nico Rosberg, and Grammy-winning artists and celebrities.  Level up your communication skills through his course and mastermind  Speaking Success”.  If  you want to make this the year that you master your personal brand, check out Dan’s Full Service Personal Branding Agency. His passion is to inspire people with his motto ‘Start Now Start Simple’ in building a future we all want to live in.

11 thoughts on “How to be expressive with your face”

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  6. Love the detail here! Looking forward to trying some of these out at my this weekend’s Toastmaster’s meetup!

    1. Hope your toastmaster’s meetup goes well Joseph. Will be curious to know what tip you would use and how that goes? Let me know!!

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