So what can you do if you're a speaker with a body with a mind of its own? Here are four tactics:
- Know what you're doing: The biggest issue with unconscious moves is that lack of awareness. This is one time you'll want a video camera and a trusted pal or a coach to capture what you're doing. Get footage of yourself speaking or presenting, ideally a few times, so you can observe how and when you move. For some people, just seeing the unconscious move is enough to end it. But if not...
- Review video soon: The sooner you review a video of your unconscious moves after a talk, the more you'll be able to recall about what you were thinking. If the movement is what I call a "visual um," you might find that you lost your train of thought--and the movement was a silent way of marking your place, just as "um" does verbally.
- Know why you're doing it: When you review the video, think about those unintentional moves. Are you repeating a move because you're nervous? Were you distracted? Just don't know what else to do with your hands? All of those can be dealt with, but you need to identify the reasons first.
- Find a substitute: If your unconscious move signals forgetting, substitute more practice so you feel more prepared. Use a plan for your message so it sticks with you first, and then with your audience. If you're aimlessly repeating a move, work out a couple of substitutes, then practice using them. If you keep looking away from the audience, prompt yourself to look at a different part of the audience instead of turning away, for example.