What do you do with your hands?
This is an area of speech delivery that many people struggle with as newer speakers.
Some techniques that people tend to use as new speakers are:
- A death grip on the lectern
- The prayer for divine intervention
- Lets make sure my fly is closed hand position
- Playing with my watch/bracelet is so much fun
- These pockets are good places to hide my hands
All of these techniques have a similar downfall - they distract your audience from your message.
Several internationally recognized studies have shown that we absorb a lot of any message from the visual, and when the visual message is nervousness yet the verbal message is about confidence, the audience will believe the visual.
So what do we do about it?
Learn and practice a safe resting position
Let your hands hang by your sides loosely. When you are not using them deliberately, leave them here.
This will allow you to bring your hands up and out to form gestures more easily, and as your confidence grows during your presentation you will do so almost automatically.
If you also stand with your feet approximately under your shoulders, your body will be balanced and you will feel relaxed.
Practice and use the "Trust me" gesture
Put your hands out towards the audience with your arms open and your hands facing upwards. Trust me! I've got nothing to hide. This is a visual message which the audience will absorb without thinking of it.
Use the 1-2-3 speech structure and illustrate it with your fingers, holding up your hand
My first point is ... My second point is ... My third and final point is ...
After you have made each point, you will drop your hand back to resting position until your next gesture.
Practise in front of a full length mirror
Observe yourself keenly.
This is the what the audience sees.
Don't panic if you don't like it.
Work to make it what you want them to see.
Try out different ways of using your hands and arms to clarify your message and emphasise the main points.
Using hand gestures is not the beginning and end of the visual aspect of your presentation
Your eyes, facial expression, stance and props all add to the visual message, but your hands are an effective way to add power to your presentation.
Thanks to Robert Green DTM from District 69 for ideas for this page.