Today we are talking about gestures and more specifically how we can become better at using gestures, so we are not awkward on stage and so our presentations runs smoothly.
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If you’ve missed this blog post we’ve already discussed the 4 different types of gestures and how you can use them, and we gave some examples.
Now I am going into more detail on how you can improve your gestures, things to avoid and how to appear natural and confident on stage.
Tip #1: Eliminate Distracting Mannerisms or Twitches
This is the biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to speaking gestures. They use a lot of good gestures, but then they also use this ticks or mannerism that they just kind of repeat over and over.
These distract people from the message that you are giving.
So the rule is – if hand gesture are supporting the delivery of you message then generally they are going to be great. But if the hand gestures are taking away from the supporting of your message then generally it’s not going to be very good.
What are some mannerisms that people use?
- Playing with your ring finger.
- Touching you face
- Swaying from side to side
- Shifting your weight
- Pacing back and forth
- Touching your ears
- Adjusting your hair
- Adjusting your clothing
- Putting your hands in your pockets
- Playing with pens.
Just make sure your hand are free and don’t keep anything in your hands, because if you have pen in your hands you just go naturally play with it.
If there are keys in your pocket then take them out. Try not to put your hand in your pocket at all just keep your hands free that’s the best suggestion that I can give you.
Always try to be aware of what you are doing with your hands and if you are doing any repeatedly motions.
Recording yourself on video and watching yourself back is a great way to find out these things that you do.
Tip #2: Be Natural and Conversational
The best public speakers are the ones that appear natural and confident.
We use our hand gestures in everyday conversations. For example:
- When I am talking to my wife
- At the dinner table
- When I am telling a story to my children
- When I am talking to my family members
- Even when I am on the phone
You use hand gestures in everyday life so try and relax. Be as cruisey and casual as you can and just pretend you are having a conversation with your best friend.
How would you use your hand gestures then? That’s a good indication that you are doing things well.
When people keep their hands to their sides, or put their hands down behind their back or hands in their pockets it’s not going to help convey their message.
So keep your hands free. Be natural be conversational, be cruisey.
Tip #3: Use Gestures To Project Your Feelings
This is again something that we do naturally in a conversation.
When we are in state of happiness things just naturally come out. We naturally have gestures that we do. When we are sad – we naturally slouch. When we are angry – we naturally use angry gestures. Let your feelings come out in your gestures.
One of the best things we can do is pass an emotion onto our audience. People remember things when it has an emotion attached to it much better than if it’s just statistical information and it doesn’t have any emotions.
By using gesture that support your feelings, that bring your feeling out of your body, then you will get your message across more effectively.
Tip #4: Prepare and Practice Your Public Speaking Gestures
I recommend video for this because you can watch yourself back but doing it in the mirror is helpful as well.
When you prepare and practice try to think about what you are saying and to think about what gestures best support what you are saying and try to do them as you say it.
You know the first time when you learn to drive a car how difficult it was?
You need to change gears, you need to drive straight, you need to turn, you need to indicate, you need to check your rearview mirror. There are a lot of things to do, right?
When I learned to drive a car I started in an empty car park. I first learned how to change gears, whist I was going straight. No turning at all! I learned the basics and then I went up to changing gears whilst turning and then indicating as well and checking my rearview mirror and adjusting the radio and texting whilst driving.
Just like driving a car we learn things progressively, the same goes with gesturing.
You are walking around the room AND giving a presentation AND you are talking AND you are trying to make eye contact AND you try to give hand gestures. That’s a lot of things to do at once.
We need to practice progressively. Start by standing still in one spot and give your talk and just use your hands. And then you can add in some walking, some moving, some eye contact and so forth.
With practicing we get better we get to learn about the ticks that we have and we also get to practice our gestures so they become subconscious.
Tip #5: Be More Animated That You Think You Should Be
The fact is when you are up on stage, especially if you are talking to a big audience, you look really small. You look tinny tiny to people.
Even if it’s a small group of 10 people you are not right up close to their face. You can’t see exactly their facial expressions.
So when you are more animated than you think you need to be, you actually look normal.
If we are just as animated as we are in our everyday conversation then our hand gestures look small and our facial expressions look like we are not doing much at all. By being more animated you actually look normal, not weird.
This does takes some practice but over time you become used to it and it becomes normal. If you watch yourself back on video you will see that is very normal to be more animated than less animated.
This is why actors in plays use make up (like clowns) to exaggerate their expressions. They need to exaggerate because when you are in a play you are on a stage and people are so far away. You need to exaggerate your expressions so they can see it.
The same is true for public speaking. We need to exaggerate a little bit so that it actually looks normal to the audience.
So there you have 5 tips on how to better improve your public speaking gestures and how to use public speaking gestures more effectively.