Public Speaking: 8 Great Tips on GesturesJune 27th, 2009 by Frank Damelio
In my experience, 95% of speakers under gesture, which makes them appear uncomfortable, overly formal and stiff. It can also lead to many yawns in the audience.
For novice presenters, gestures are at the bottom of the to-do list because many speakers simply want to survive the speech. They are primarily focused on their verbal flow. However, those who are a bit more advanced in public speaking are aware that they should be gesturing as they typically do when having a one-on-one conversation with a peer.
What happens then? Why do so few speakers gesture naturally when they present? I call it the cartoon factor. When people are in the spotlight, they FEEL like a small gesture looks big and goofy. It’s not true, of course. When I train businesspeople, they get to watch their own presentation on video, and they are amazed at how small those seemingly “big” gestures appear to the audience. Thinking gets warped when you are in the spotlight. Just as a two-second pause on stage feels like an eternity, a small gesture on stage feels huge.
Compound this false sense with the fact that most speakers would far prefer to look conservative and boring over flamboyant and goofy; and you now understand why people look like talking statues when they present.
What to do?
1. Be aware that to gesture properly, you will probably FEEL a bit cartoony, but you will not appear that way to your audience.
2. Video your presentation, so that you can SEE what looks natural from the outside.
3. Keep in mind that the larger the group, the larger the gestures must become to create your presence.
4. Study a bit on body language and gestures. Many warn against over-prepping your gestures because you can look robotic or too slick. In my experience, that is hardly the problem with presenters. Most speakers have torsos and arms that simply look petrified.
5. When you rehearse your speech, look in the mirror, and imagine that you are simply talking to a friend. Watch how your hands move.
6. Avoid keeping your hands on the podium. In fact, get out from behind the podium.
7. Avoid the T-REX position with your arms. So many speakers only extend their forearms throughout their entire presentation – keeping their upper arms glued to the sides. After a while it looks funny, like a T-REX. They subconsciously do this because of the cartoon factor.
8. Remember, people hate to be bored, so show some zeal. Do try to avoid clapping your hands over your head though, because that would be cartoony.
There you have it, eight great public speaking tips on gestures. I encourage you to leave a comment.
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