When you do a presentation or speech you have so many things to think about, “gestures” take a back seat.
Gestures are a movement of part of the body, especially the hands or head, to express an idea or meaning. And gestures really help in a presentation. They make us look confident. They emphasize the message. They increase audience engagement. They make our delivery more memorable.
When you’re standing on the stage, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’re moving your hands or head, right?
I’ve got some good news for you: there is a really easy way to do gestures in your presentation!
Let’s look at the two ways that you can do gestures and check out the pros and cons of each…
This is where you’re going to practice gesturing like you practice your speech.
Focus on the key words in your speech and practice gesturing when you say that key word. For example, you say “big” and open your hands wide. You say “small” and put your hands close together.
Coaches and training companies like to use this method to teach gestures because it gives the student presenter a “rule” to follow. When you are teaching something, rules and parameters are a nice-to-have item because it makes the student feel comfortable.
- Gives the presenter something tangible to do when they are preparing, especially helpful for newbies
- Eliminates guess work for the presenter
- Looks contrived
- Likely to repel the audience
- Can cause confusion for the presenter (trying to remember both what to say and what gesture to do)
This is where you are going to gesture naturally like you would in a conversation with a friend or colleague.
For natural gestures there is no practice. But it does require you to understand what you will be talking about and it requires that you maintain an open body position (at least when you start talking).
When we gesture naturally we are not thinking about what gesture to do. We’re just moving our hands in a way that helps us to describe. There are no rules.
To “practice” natural gestures for your presentation, you need to a) know your topic very well and b) practice talking about your topic in front of the mirror. If you know your topic well you will gesture naturally as you’re speaking.
- Looks natural; looks real
- Presenter appears confident and relaxed
- Presenter appears credible (trust is built with the audience)
- Engages the audience
- There is no “rule” which can make it uncomfortable for newbie presenters
Natural gestures wins. If you have doubts, head over the TED.com and watch some of the talks. Imagine those talks with practice gestures.