Somewhere along the way, most of us have been given advice about public speaking that goes something like this: Don't use your hands too much. Just keep gestures to a minimum so people can focus on your words.
Yet research shows that it's actually effective for a presenter's hands to do plenty of "talking". They just need to be saying the right thing.
The problem for most people, of course, is figuring out how to use the right gestures that reinforce their verbal message—all while anxiously trying to remember what to say.
Let us look at some right ways to use your hands when you're speaking in front of a crowd:
Describe With Your Hands
If you're talking about a small thing, pinch your fingers. If it's a really big point, don not be afraid to gesture your hands in the air. To help audience members keep track of what you are saying, hold out one hand to describe the benefits of an issue and then the other to describe a list of downsides. And anytime you say a number below 5, show that with your hand. It helps people remember the number.
Open Your Palms
Make outstretched gestures to the audience with open palms. Everything from the handshake to the hands up movement provides proof that you have nothing to hide.
Keep Your Hands Above Your Waist
Generally, it is a good idea to keep your hands in the area from your shoulder to the top part of your hips. That's a really natural area for you to gesture. Going too wide or too high with your arms too often can be distracting.
Rest Your Hands
However prepared you may be, there inevitably comes a moment when you realize you have done exactly what you should not. Perhaps you have spent the last five minutes pointing, or something just doesn't feel right with the gestures you are using.
When that happens, briefly drop your hands down to your sides. It serves as a reset button of sorts. But only keep them there temporarily.
Free Your Hands
Barnett says she commonly sees clients whom she is coaching stand up with a pen in their hands, give a presentation, and not realize they have spent the entire time clicking the pen's top. Other people rustle papers they are holding or beat their thumbs on a table or podium.
These are all examples of fidgeting which distract the listener or make the speaker come off as nervous.
According to a study conducted by Professor Mehrabian on two of his students, he concluded that communication is only 7% verbal and the rest 93% is non-verbal. Making gestures in public speaking makes it easier for you to have an easy flow of information. Not just for the audience but also for yourself.
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