How to Use Hand Gestures in Public Speaking?
Do you know how to use hand gestures in public speaking?
What do you do with your hands?
Have you ever watched someone’s hand gestures when they are talking? Open hand gestures tend to make a person appear open and honest. Bringing hands together to a point can accent the point you are making.
Wringing your hands or excessively moving your fingers and hands will give away nervousness.
Read the article written by Jena McGregor and Shelly Tan dated November 17, 2015 (The Washington Post). It is a good reference for what to do with your hands while speaking in public.
Here are the key points:
- Keep hand movements descriptive.
- Use open palm gestures to build the audience’s trust.
- Keep your hands in the strike zone when possible.
- Don’t point. Just don’t.
- Politicians love to use the “Clinton thumb.” Most people shouldn’t.
- When you don’t know what to do, drop your hands to your sides for a moment.
- Avoid drawing attention to the wrong places.
- Conducting is for orchestras, not public speaking.
- Keep objects out of you hands.
- If behind a lectern, show your hands.
- Avoid “spider hands.”
The following youtube videos demonstrate how to use your hands – and how not to – while giving a presentation. I find these videos useful and would like to share with you.
Communication does not just consist of words. Less than 10% of the words we use in speaking gets through to others. On the other hand, over 55% of our body language is communicated to others very clearly. Whether you are trying to sell your product or service to a client or you are trying to persuade a group of people to change their behavior, it is critical that your words and gestures match. Many people have sabotaged their messages because their words were saying one thing, while their bodies were saying the exact opposite.
Can you think of a time when someone told you that he would be able to do something while his head was shaking no? Which did you believe, the words or the gesture? When your body movements are congruent with your words, your message will have a very powerful impact on your audience.
Gestures include your posture, the movement of your eyes, hands, face, arms and head, as well as your entire body. They help to support or reinforce a particular thought or emotion. If our gestures support our statements, we are communicating with a second sense. People tend to understand and remember messages better when more than one sense is reached.
Winston Churchill was a master at using gestures to powerfully bring home his point. During World War II, Churchill rallied the citizens of Great Britain to continue their fight against overwhelming odds. He often visited the neighborhoods of London, which had been devastated by bombs and walked through them with his fingers held up in the sign of a “V”. This victory sign accompanied his famous message, “Never give in. Never, never, never give in.” This gesture so powerfully communicated Churchill’s message that soon people gained greater resolve to continue fighting whenever they saw the victory sign.
People naturally use gestures in conversations. They are not on the spot, so they easily move their arms and hands and make facial expressions to illustrate the points they are trying to make. However, an amazing thing happens when people stand up in front of a group to speak. They suddenly think, “Oh no! What am I going to do with these things attached to my shoulders?” and they either don’t move them at all or they move them awkwardly. Gestures should be a natural extension of who we are. Presenters should strive to be themselves. They should be as spontaneous with their movements as if they were talking to their family or friends.
What are you doing with your hands? If you get nervous in social situations, you may feel that no matter what you do with your hands, it’s the wrong thing. Many people who cross their arms in front of their chest are probably doing so at least in part because they don’t know where else to put their hands.
You should never cross your arms in front of your chest unless you really don’t want anybody to approach you. That is the message this gesture sends out. If you want to look open and approachable, keep your arms at your sides. Holding your arm in front of your body can be seen as a signal that you want to defend yourself against other people.
Practice Makes Natural.
A good way to be comfortable with gestures is to know your speech well. Several of the most outstanding speakers offer the same piece of advice: “The key to effectively using gestures is to know your material so well, to be so well prepared, that your gestures will flow naturally.” Practice your speech and know it well so that you can enjoy sharing your message with others.
Join Toastmasters and find a club that you like to practise your speeches in a friendly environments. You are welcome to visit our Kampong Ubi Toastmasters Club if you are living in Singapore.