Join Jeff Ansell for an in-depth discussion in this video Gesturing naturally, part of Communicating with Confidence.
- If using your hands when you speak is new to you, you might feel as if you're waving them around like a lunatic. It always feels exaggerated when you're on the inside looking out. You may feel awkward, talking with your hands, but to your audience it looks natural, and has you coming across as confident. If people do use their hands, sometimes, they keep them buried into their rib cage. So get some distance between your elbows and your ribs. And every once in a while, to show how confident you are, keep your hands out here, even when you're not talking.
Be sure to change the motion of your hands to match the content. You can use a rolling gesture for instance, if you're talking about a progression. You can use side-to-side movements if comparing topics. And know that crossing your arms makes you look defensive. Strong hand gestures are primal, designed to make us look bigger. But there are times when big strong hand gestures are not called for. Sometimes, when you're delivering a message, and you want to convey a warmer side, or when you're asking people to do something, the best gesture is this.
Palms up, in front of you. It's a primal gesture. No rocks, no knives, I come in peace. Here's an example. "So I ask you now, "join me in moving forward, "because together, we can make this work." By the way, sometimes, when you're making a big ask, or a request of someone, it's best to not only hold your palms up, but also to speak in a softer voice, with more pauses, like this: "So I ask you now, "join me in moving forward, "because together, "we can make this work." People also instinctively use their hands in this upward position when making an apology.
Now, you may wonder, is there such a thing as too much hands? Yes, if the hand movement makes no sense, or if it's repetitive hand motion, that instead of taking away your anxiety, gives the audience anxiety. Or if the gesture doesn't match what you're saying as you're saying it. "There are two points I want to make." Must you have a hand gesture to go with every word out of your mouth? No, but recognize that your energy level drops as soon as your hands fall to your side.
Notice your hand gestures in everyday interactions, and practice those while you're speaking in front of a group.
- Organizing your thoughts
- Speaking slowly, naturally, and confidently
- Breathing properly
- Using your body to reinforce speech
- Managing facial expressions
- Handling nervousness
- Integrating voice modulation, eye contact, and hand gestures into a powerful and engaging communication style