Articles by Professional Speakers Guild members

Seven Key Ways to Gesture Effectively
from "10 Days to More Confident Public Speaking"
(Chapter 5 - pages 107 - 110)
Copyright, 2001 Philip Lief Group Inc & Lenny Laskowski
Gestures are reflections of every speaker's individual personality. What's right for one speaker may not be right for another; however, if you apply the following seven rules, you can become a dynamic, confident speaker who uses gestures well.

1. Respond naturally to what you think, feel and see. - It's natural for you to gesture. If you inhibit your impulse to gesture, you'll probably become tense.

2. Create the condition for gesturing, not the gesture. - When you speak, you should be totally involved in communicating - not thinking about your hands. Your gestures should be naturally motivated by the content of your presentation.

3. Suit the action to the word and the occasion. - Your visual and verbal messages must function as partners in communicating the same thought or feeling. Every gesture you make should be purposeful and reflective of your words so the audience will note only the effect, not the gesture itself.

4. Don't overdo the gesturing. - You'll draw the listener away from your message. Young audiences are usually attracted to a speaker who uses vigorous gestures, but older, more conservative groups may feel your physical actions are overwhelming or irritating.

5. Make your gestures convincing. - Your gestures need to be lively and distinct if they are to convey the intended impressions. Effective gestures are vigorous enough to be convincing yet slow enough and broad enough to be clearly visible without being overpowering. For example, if you are conveying excitement about a point or topic in your speech, show it in your face such as with a big smile. If you are excited and don't show it, your body language sends a negative message. Your gestures need to match your words and the mood you are conveying.

6. Make your gestures smooth and well timed. - This rule is the most important but also the hardest. Why? Gestures have to be somewhat planned in advance so you can incorporate them during your speech rehearsal. In addition, practice sessions allow you to get a sense of how early you need to start your gesture so it coincides with the point you are making. Every gesture has three parts:

* The approach-Your body begins to move in anticipation.
* The stroke-The gesture itself.
* The return-This brings your body back to a balanced posture.

The flow of a gesture - the approach, the stroke, the return - must be smoothly executed so that only the stroke is evident to the audience. While it's advisable to practice gesturing, don't try to memorize your every move. This makes your
gesturing stilted and ineffective. For example, you're standing on the left-hand side of the stage (the audience's left) and you need to use the flip chart to illustrate a
point, but the flip chart is on the far right-hand side of the stage (the audience's right). You may say to your audience. "Let's take a look at it on the flip chart."

As you start this statement begin walking toward the flip chart (the approach). Your goal is to start your gesture early enough so you can walk naturally toward the flip
chart. At the word "flip" place your hand on the flip chart. This combined walking and placement of your hand on the flip chart is the gesture or the stroke. After a
brief moment, place your hand on the flip chart and then take your hand and move it to one of your resting positions. This is the return or completion of the gesture.

7. Make natural, spontaneous gesturing a habit. - The first step in becoming adept at gesturing is to determine what, it anything, you are doing now. For example, pay attention to the gestures you use in everyday conversations and try to use these gestures during your presentation. If you prefer, you can videotape your practice speech. The camcorder or video camera is truthful and unforgiving. If you want to
become a more effective speaker, you need to make the camcorder your best friend. Recording yourself is a surefire way to eliminate your distracting mannerisms. Videotape yourself and identify your bad habits. Then work at eliminating them.

All of my private executive coaching sessions and seminars, use a video camera to help the participants "see" what they are doing and what changes they need to make. To improve gestures, practice - but never during a speech. Practice gesturing when speaking informally to friends, family members, and co-workers.

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Published by Lenny Laskowski
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Lenny Laskowski
Author of "10 Days to More Confident Public Speaking"

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