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Hands up for public speaking

Hands up for public speaking

You know those things at the end of your arms?! The picky-uppy things – it’s just amazing how often those get in the way.

As a Presentation Skills and Media Skills Coach and Mentor it’s incredible how often I get asked the question “What do you do with your hands?”.

We use our hands every day to pick up things, scrape things, push, shove, wave, poke  and generally move stuff around, but when it comes to speaking in front of a group they can take on a life of their own.

As you stand in front of that group of friends, family, colleagues, business associates or potential clients, the occasion can take over and your nervous system starts to pull the strings. One of the side-effects of nervousness is strange, and often uncontrolled, body movements. You’ve probably seen it before. Some people rock backwards and forwards from heel to toe, others step from one foot to the other. Twitches, ticks and other odd movements all make up the “nervous burn-off” factor. One major action can be sudden and somewhat wild hand movements or over-use of hand gestures. When this starts to happen we tend to become quickly aware of it, and yet trying to stop it happening is another thing. And it’s a bit like not ever noticing a red car on the road and then you buy one and end up seeing them everywhere.

As soon as we become aware of the extreme hand gestures we tend to focus on it which can have an extremely deleterious effect on your presentation.

So, what can you do?

My general suggestion is that when you feel you are using hand gestures too much or too big, drop your hands to your sides and start afresh. If you tuck your elbows into your sides, only gesturing with half your arms, that will help you feel like you’ve reined them in as well.

Dropping your arms is going to feel a little weird but it’s better that you feel a little weird rather than adversely affecting the visual presence of your presentation as well as having your hands psyching you out as you go.

While you might feel that your audience knows and sees absolutely what’s going on, more than likely they have absolutely no idea and are happily listening to what you have to say.

Not using your hands at all is rather odd because most people embellish what they are saying with their hands. So continue to make those motions but trim them down and enjoy delivering your speech. Your audience will love it and you too!

Yours in public speaking,

Peter Buckley

Peter Buckley is Brio Group’s guest blogger. When he’s not writing blog posts, he’s a professional Speaker, MC and Mentor in Presentation Skills and Media Skills. Visit his website for more information.

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