Body Language Observation Report: Tim Urban

Context and Background

In a short video taken in 2016, Tim Urban, guest speaker of this specific Ted Talk addresses his feelings about the topic of procrastination stating that it is an idea that is difficult for one to completely grasp. During this talk, Urban refers to examples of procatistantion to his own personal life in an insightful manner that encourages the audience to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time. Through analysis of the speaker's body language, it can be observed that in addition to his verbally communicated thoughts, Urban conveys much more information nonverbally.


Facial Expressions

Tim Urban begins the talk with periods of time switching frequently between looking down and the front row audience. His mouth is kept slightly ajar with a grin in place. He continues by not blinking as often and rather being wide eyed. Furthermore, his lips curl outward and bares his teeth in response to the audience's laughter as he proceeds to get reassurance from them. Tim tends to drop his chin at the same time looking higher up with his eyes. As the talk continues, Tim gets more expressive, in which he maintains a raised eyebrows when he makes key points, causing his eyes to widen and his forehead to crease deeply.

Hand Movements

Throughout the whole speech, Tim is frequently seen using a variety of hand gestures to engage his audience swapping between slow motions with welcoming arms to faster and concise movements that accompany is voice. He begins with his palms facing upward and soon shifting repeatedly away from his chest outwards to the audience in sharp movements His palms consistently remain open with his index finger and thumb forming a pinch on each hand and alongside, his other fingers pointing up as he performs sweeping motions in the air. Towards the later parts, he seems to be more conservative, having his arms closer to him and drawing his hands towards his torso.

Body Posture

Tim Urban stands with his back straight for the entirety of the talk, however his posture is not rigid due to him constantly moving his body around. For example, he shifts from one foot to another, causing his body sway sideways. He maintains his shoulders to be parallel with the stage while leaning forward. Tim also manages to keep his posture open. Furthermore, he has a slight hunch causing his knees to bend with putting his weight on his soles. Tim avoids facing his back to the audience, depicting him as a confident speaker as he focuses on abrupt motions that match his posture. As the video progresses, Urban begins to shift his head around more; in response to his slideshow presentation relating back to it.

Summary Of Research

Facial Expressions

Facial displays are an important mean of communication (Horstmann, 2003) to convey information. Horstmann observes that certain “facial muscle contractions convey information about the emotional state”. For example, the element of excitement commands the widening and raising of both the eyes and the eyebrows, in which Tim carries out, suggesting the feelings of surprise or interest. Additionally, the downward glancing by dropping his chin is said to be linked back to the eyebrows, chin and mouth containing the coordinates of facial salient points that can solidify his feeling of excitement. These sources indicate Urban's possible feelings of happiness throughout the video whenever he curls his lips outward baring his teeth, usually in response to the audiences laugh.

Hand Movements

According to Larrazabal & Perez (2004), the use of emblems, or specific gestures which can be used as replacement for words, is to “emphasize and make the spoken words more interesting”. Tim often forms a pinch with his fingers while making points regarding his procrastination story; with this nonverbal communication for humour, he is able to keep the audience engaged whilst highlighting his success of still always managing to get what he wants done. Lunenburg (2010) writes that “palms spread outward to indicate perplexity”. In many instances during the speech, Urban is seen speaking with spread out palms either facing upwards or parallel to the floor. This displays his times of being excited but also timid in which he brings his hands closer to his torso rather than in the air.

Body Posture

Tim Urban is seen moving and shifting different parts of the body starting from bending his knees, causing him to lean forward to tilting his head. According to Grama & Botone (2009), a head tilted down correlates to a neutral and open attitude. Urban’s slightly tilted down head through the speech reveals his acceptance towards the reasons behind procrastination and emphasizes this by trying to connect with the audience. Tim maintains a forward posture along side his unfolded arms and exposed palms depicting him as receptive. Standing erect is generally interpreted as an indicator of self-confidence in which Tim lacks at times due to him bending his knees making him seem at an angle. This posture through nonverbal communication of leaning forward and open is stating that Urban’s interest and agreement on the topic. Throughout the video, Tim Urban, through the use of this nonverbal communication, displays himself as self-assured and assertive in terms of his description of procrastination.


Tim Urban utilizes his body language to effectively communicate his ideas through to the audience in a creative manner. His facial expressions, movements, and posture prove that this speech allows him to face his bad habits of last minute ridicules while incorporating humour and satire into his speech. Through his body language, he is able to communicate emotional states to others and to regulate the environment by indicating people’s intentions and actions. His hand movements and posture makes him seem composed and open, creating an appealing atmosphere for the audience. While is face expressions display emotion, it’s the expressiveness that allows him to connect with the audience. In this video, Urban proves that strong, consistent nonverbal communication is vital for one to get their message delivered in an effective way.

10 October 2020
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