Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1 question for the speaker coach: "Effective hand motions and hands at rest?"

If you could ask a speaker coach one question about your speaking or presenting, what would it be?

I asked that question recently on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and I'll be answering those questions here on the blog. You're welcome to post your questions here in the comments or on Facebook.

LaTracey Copeland asked, "What are the most effective hand motions to be using throughout your presentation, and where do you hold them when not speaking?"

We've managed to make speakers feel bad about gesturing for some time now, and needlessly so. For starters, gesturing actually helps your brain produce speech--so you will speak more fluently if you gesture, and not so much if your hands are immobilized when you speak, so avoid putting your hands in your pockets while you're talking. Gestures also help you think while you're speaking.

The truth is that any kind of gesture--random or planned--will have those effects on your brain as a speaker. Here are some tips for how to think through and choose gestures for your next speech:
  • Can a gesture help you substitute for a chart or slide? Maybe all we need you to do is sketch the upward climb of a chart in the air, rather than show it to us on a slide.
  • If your talk is being recorded on video or you're in a television interview, remember that we won't see your gestures if they are behind the lectern or, on camera, below the level of your head and neck. That's fine if all you want to do is keep the words flowing, but keep in mind that the audience's ability to see the gesture can help us understand you and stay engaged. So hands up!
  • Pointing at the audience is a no-no in most cultures, so use my alternatives if you need to call on a questioner or direct attention to someplace in the room.
  • When your hands are at rest, if you can't rest them lightly on the lectern, stand with your elbows bent and your hands lightly touching at the fingertips. You'll look relaxed, but your hands are in a position that keeps them ready to gesture without looking awkward. But don't put them in your pockets, grip the lectern too tightly, or otherwise immobilize them--it will cause you to stumble more in your speaking, since gestures help your brain produce fluent speech.
What's your 1 question for the speaker coach? Leave it in the comments.

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