One of the most common questions people have when speaking in public is, “What do I do with my hands?” Some people become overly aware of their hands, and fall into awkward fixed positions (like the “fig leaf” stance: arms straight down with hands clasped together in front of your body). Others move their hands to the point of distraction, nervously waving them around with each word.
The gestures you use when speaking can make or break how your message is received. Hand movements that are unnatural or entirely absent can distract your audience and make you appear uncomfortable and stiff. However, learning to use the gestures the right way can help you project confidence and drive your message home in an effective, memorable way. Check out our three tips below to make sure your gestures are sending the right message!
Keep It Fluid: While constantly flailing around can be a major distraction for your audience, getting stuck in a fixed posture can make your speech boring and difficult to focus on. Some positions, like folding your arms, or sitting with your chin in your hands, should be avoided altogether. These positions can make you seem closed off, passive, or bored. Use gestures as a way to keep yourself from settling into a fixed posture and keep your audience engaged.
Make Gestures Meaningful: Not only do natural gestures make you appear confident and at ease, they can also be used to draw attention to important points in your speech. Making subtle but defined gestures during key moments will help your listener focus on these points. One movement that works particularly well is gesturing toward your listener with your palm facing upwards. The forward motion signals strength and security, while your upturned palm projects openness and honesty.
Get a Fresh Perspective: Since gesture and body language are often automatic, you may have trouble recognizing and changing your patterns. Ask a friend or trusted colleague to keep an eye on how you use your hands next time you give a presentation or speak during a meeting. Once you know your personal patterns, it can be easier to shape them to project a strong, professional image when speaking.
If you are looking to polish your communication skills be sure to pick up a free copy of my e-book “Communicate with Clarity and Confidence!” by subscribing to our newsletter community on our website. For additional information call us at 212-308-7725 or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!