Don’t Let Your Hand Get in the Way of Your Mouth

Les Brown, one of the world’s most renowned motivational speakers said, “With every technology that is created, somebody loses his job. As a speaker, however, you have an energy signature. There is an experience you can create that cannot be simulated by technology, which makes your life recession-proof.” Les is right. There is something unique about public speaking that projects your personality in a way technology cannot replicate. No two public speakers are the same. There is always something special about each one that makes it difficult for you to determine who is better.

What stands a public speaker out from the crowd? It is the energy he/she projects while speaking. Two speakers may deliver a similar speech but they will surely display different levels of energy. As good as energy is, however, a lot of people have a big problem channeling it. When you have a lot of energy and you are excited about your topic, there is the tendency to make uncoordinated moves. Whereas when you stand before your audience, you are considered as a standard for “appropriateness”. Hence, uncoordinated steps or gesticulations may be distracting.

A lot of people don’t know what to do with their hands while speaking. Since they have a lot of energy, they simply throw their hands in every direction. Here are a few rules of gesticulation:

1. It should complement your speech: movement of hands and body should help you to communicate better. It should help to emphasize your points. When gestures become too elaborate, they become the centre of attraction for your audience. The worst part of it is, you may be unaware of your distracting movement. Only with the exception of deliberate acts, a speaker should make the audience concentrate more on the words being spoken than hand movements.

2. It should be purposeful: it is important to define your movement. Since your movement can either aid or hinder your presentation, it is advisable to plan it. Purposeless movements are movements that don’t add to your message. Such movements may include toying with your tie or hair, spinning a bunch of keys with your finger, tapping on the podium, toying with a button on your dress, etc. It is, no doubt, a tough task to get rid of these movements. This is where practice becomes invaluable.

3. It should be natural: the more natural your gestures are, the more graceful you will appear. One of the numerous ways to make your gestures natural is to internalise your message such that it flows naturally out of you. As you deliver your speech, you will find yourself moving your hands to support your points.

4. It should not be frequent: when you move your hands too frequently, your audience may start to pay special attention to them. You don’t need to illustrate every word with your hand or you might as well keep quiet and dramatize. I believe holding the microphone helps some people to gesticulate less, though I have seen a speaker who gesticulated so much while holding the microphone that I did not hear much of what he said. Just as punctuation come at strategic points in a sentence to make it meaningful, gesticulations should also punctuate speeches.

5. It should become the speech: Your gesticulation should not become conspicuous. Let your gesticulation become part of your speech and not another presentation on its own. When there is a perfect blend, people will not notice the difference between your speech and your movements.

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