What Do I Do With My Hands During A Public Speech?


What Do I Do With My Hands During A Public Speech?What do I do with my hands during a presentation or public speech? I see so many people making simple rookie mistakes and using hand gestures and holding their hands in a certain way that actually distracts from what they’re saying.

Oftentimes I will be watching someone give a speech or a presentation or preaching at church and their hands will captivate me and confuse me or they will look awkward and I’ll feel sorry for them.

Sometimes their hands will just do this continual motion and actually attract my attention and all of a sudden I’ve forgotten what they’ve said. I’ve just been watching their hands for the last couple of minutes.

So it’s something that is very important to take control of. It’s something that we have to think of because if we don’t take control of our hands they will do whatever they want and they will run away from us and it will look awkward and it will not add value to our presentation and that’s what gesturing is meant to do.

Your body language is meant to add value to the words that you’re speaking, not take away from it.

What NOT To Do With Your Hands

Some people will clasp their hands together in front of them and put it in front of their belts or their groin region and just hold it in front. That’s probably not the best way to use your hands.

Some people will clasp their hands behind them in a military sort of stance and that’s not a great way to engage with your audience either.

Some people will put their hands in their pockets and just … it attracts attention to the wrong area. So it’s probably not a great idea to have your hands in your pockets throughout the presentation, especially if you’ve got keys or something in your pocket and you’re going to be fiddling. It’s just not a good idea.

Don’t hold on to the pulpit for dear life. You see, some people, it looks like they’re in a hurricane because they’re just holding on so fiercely to the pulpit because they don’t want to let go. They don’t know what to do with their hands so don’t do that.

Don’t fidget with your hands. Things like playing with the rings on your finger or playing with the bangle on your hand for the girls. Don’t fidget with your hands and also don’t do any constant repetitive movements with your hands. So don’t move them around in circles. Don’t.

Just, basically, if you see yourself doing something over and over and over and it’s more like a twitch that it is a gesture, then you want to try and remove that.

How You SHOULD Use Hand Gestures During a Speech

So what should you do and how should you use hand gestures? And really, it comes down to what kind of presentation you’re giving and what kind of presenter you are.

For someone who is very outgoing, very big in the way that they speak, then they’re going to want to use very big hand gestures.

If you’re a shy, more reserved person then if you’re using big hand gestures, well, again it’s going to distract and take away from your message because it’s going to look unnatural because you’re not being yourself.

The biggest thing to think about as we go through these tips is that you want to be yourself. You want to remember to use gestures that are in line with who are and also the message that you’re trying to give.

The whole point of gesturing is to add value to our message. So there’s no definite way that you should gesture. We have to tailor our gesturing based on our audience, based on what kind of material we’re presenting, based on who we are.

So what are some tips that we can use to give better gestures?

1. Use Natural Gesturing Throughout Your Presentation

So firstly, try to use natural gesturing throughout your presentation.

A lot of the techniques that we said not to do, like standing in the military stance and things like that which actually hide your hands is we don’t want to keep our hands in one spot the entire time.

As people, we naturally gesture with our hands. I’m recording this podcast right now and my hands are moving around. My hands are gesturing to you and we all naturally do that in conversation with our family and our friends. So what we want to do is bring some of that into our speech.

So don’t be afraid to use the natural gestures that you would during a standard conversation with one of your friends. Again, it’s part of what we do as humans, as part of how we interact. So we want to look natural, we want to use natural gesturing.

2. Get Creative on Important Points

Get creative on important points and use visual cues to emphasize what you are saying.

I’m going to steal this from Lisa B. Marshall who has a great public speaking podcast that I listen to as well that you should go and check out if you’re interested in learning more.

But she was saying, if you’re talking about lifting something up then use that visualization. Pretend to be lifting something up. If you’re talking about digging a hole, then why not pretend you’ve got a shovel in your hand and start digging a hole.

There’s different cues that you can use to talk about these different things. If you’re talking about the size of something and something small, you know, you can use your finger and your thumb together to show that it’s small.

If something is really big then stretch your arms out really wide and to say this is a massive point or this is massively important. This is this important, this is … or you know, the monster was this big.

Things like that to give visual cues to the crowd, really help to draw them in and help to emphasize points as well.

So if you’re using that natural gesturing but then you get creative on those important points and use visualization techniques, then that can be really helpful.

3. Mix It Up

Mix it up is my next tip and this is something that’s not as easy to do but again we want to avoid that repetitive gesturing, something that we’re doing that looks more like a twitch than it does than a natural conversational piece.

So what we want to do is find ways to mix up our gesturing. This is something that I need to do more. Watch speeches on TED.com and watch their hand gestures only. Learn some of these hand gestures and incorporate them into your own speeches.


So obviously they’re different people to you, so you’re not going to do everything the same but they might do one certain gesture on one certain phrase and you might think, ah, that’s great, that’s really engaging. I could use that in my speech which is about something completely different but I’m trying to emphasize this point.

And again, if you can’t … instead of TED, you can get on Youtube. There’s a lot of Toastmasters speeches on Youtube. If you watch the winners of those speeches and watch again how they move around the stage, how they gesture, and try and glean ideas from them.

Try and steal some of the things that they do and make it your own and use it in your own speech.

So I hope that this had been helpful answering your question: What do I do with my hands during a presentation?

These tips should help to make you feel more natural on stage, help to engage your audience more and help to add value to the words that you’re giving.