Do You Talk With Your Hands?
“Hand gestures are really a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker’s and the listener’s end,”
– Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, body language expert and author of The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work and The Silent Language of Leaders
Remember the last time you talked to a friend on the street? When you were talking what were you doing with your hands? Were they stationary at your side or were they moving around in front of you synchronized to what you were saying? My guess is they were doing the latter.
When I consult with my clients about their public speaking, gestures are a major part of our discussion. Why? Because gestures, like I mentioned in last week’s newsletter about eye contact, is a vital part of your presentation equipment. If you don’t use gestures, you are missing out on a great way to add much more to your private and public speaking.
In this week’s newsletter, we explore why your gestures are most effective when they are spontaneous, why gestures draw your audiences toward you, and how gestures enhance the words you are speaking.
Spontaneous Gestures are Trusted by the Audience
Some people look at gestures as another language and in a way, they are. The American Sign Language (ASL) is an example of using your hands to convey communication. But what I am talking about here is not ASL. I am talking about your gestures that can be used to greatly improve your speaking.
The most effective and most trusted gestures are spontaneous. “Spontaneous gestures” are ones that magically appear when you are speaking. You don’t have to consciously think about them. They are just there, conveying more information to your audiences.
Now, if you just stay with the gestures that are spontaneous to your, you would be missing out on a large part of the gestures available to you.
This may sound contradictory, but gestures can be practiced until they become spontaneous.
So how do spontaneous gestures draw your audience toward you?
Gestures Draw Your Audience Toward You
Gestures can either draw an audience to you, repel your audience or confuse them. How does this happen?
Have you ever listened to someone who is speaking in a monotone? It is very boring, isn’t it? Well, you can look at the lack of gestures when you speak as the monotone of body language. Even a person speaking with a modulated voice can improve their delivery and audience connection greatly by using gestures.
Open gestures like holding your arms out to full length while opening the palms of your hands are best because they draw the audience toward you. Closed gestures like folding your arms on your chest or holding your hands together push the audience away from you.
If you mention a series of items when you are speaking, consider holding up fingers to indicate what number in the sequence to which you are referring.
Also, ensure that your gestures match what you are saying. When they do, they will make it easier for the audience to see your point. When they don’t, it is confusing for the audience because they are getting conflicting messages from you. Some audience members may actually tune you out.
So, spontaneous gestures are trusted by your audiences and gestures draw your audiences toward you. So how do gestures actually enhance the words you are speaking?
Gestures Enhance the Words You Are Speaking
Here are a few examples of how gestures can enhance the words you are speaking.
Suppose you come to a part of your presentation when you need to indicate something strong. If your gestures were a clenched fist or even two clenched fists, these gestures would enhance your presentation. You could even hold up your arm and make a muscle which would indicate strength if that is the point you are attempting to get across.
If you needed to indicate the whole audience in your presentation, you could open your arms to the audience. You could also sweep one or both hands across the audience.
If you needed to show sadness in your presentation, you could fold your hands in a reverent way. You could also open your arms to the audience, but lower as in almost pointing down.
I could go on and on with examples, but I will stop with these three. In the first section above, I mentioned spontaneous gestures are the most trusted by the audience. So how do you get the right gestures into your presentation if they are not spontaneous?
You can actually make new gestures spontaneous by practicing them in front of a mirror until they feel natural. In fact, before you practice a presentation in front of people, always practice it in front of a mirror first. You will be surprised by what you see.
One final thought. You may be saying to yourself, “I can never gesture that way” In paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, “If you want to do something you have never done, you have to become someone you have never been.”
Think about Jefferson’s words in reference to gestures. You may not readily use certain gestures that would greatly enhance your speaking. If you don’t, you are missing out on a great way to connect with your audience. I believe you can learn to use any new gesture and go a long way in drawing your audiences toward you.
We have explored why your gestures are your most effective when they are spontaneous, why your gestures can draw your audiences toward you, and how your gestures enhance the words you are speaking.
If you want to get your point across faster and clearer, explore gestures. They are a great way to more fully communicate to your audience.
“Research demonstrates that the movements we make with our hands when we talk constitute a kind of second language, adding information that is absent from our words”
– Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant: The New Science of Smart as told in Business Insider
Looking for professional services to help you significantly increase your influence with your audiences? Contact DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI) at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 815-1324