Use gestures confidently and improve body language skills when speaking in public.


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Public Speaking Tips

Body Language Gestures


Body Language -





"Personality is an unbroken series
of successful gestures."
F. Scott Fitzgerald


Where to Put Your Hands and Arms!

What do you do with your arms and hands when standing in front of a group of people? Cross them in front of your chest, clasp your hands together, or thrust them into your pockets so they are neatly tucked away?

It's funny how we can suddenly be painfully aware of being exposed standing in front of an audience. Our primal instincts jump into action and we unconsciously use our arms to protect ourselves. A natural reaction, yet totally unnecessary and more importantly, it sends the wrong message to our audience.

Gestures - hand and arm movements - are an important part of our visual picture when we speak in public. They are reinforcements of the words and ideas we are trying to convey and a non-verbal representation of how we feel.

If we use gestures correctly, they will help us enhance our message and we will appear confident and relaxed. Used unconsciously or incorrectly however, speaker can distract their audience or send the wrong non-verbal message.

Distractive Gestures

Be aware that nervousness or feelings of inadequacy can show immediately in your gestures. These can be very distractive and misinterpreted.

For example:

  • Hands on hips = condescending, parental, overbearing

  • Crossed arms = cutting off, disagreeing, wanting to protect

  • Hands crossed in front (fig leaf) = feeling weak, timid, needing protection.

  • Hands joined behind your back = you’re on parade!

  • Hands in pockets = nervousness.  This can result in jingling any change or keys, making it even more obvious you don’t know what to do with your hands!

Now, if it is your intention to look nervous, condescending, overbearing, weak or protective because your speech calls for it, then use these gestures, but do so with purpose!

Most of the time however, speakers are using these gestures unconsciously.  So be aware of what you are doing with your arms and hands as it is sending a subconscious message to your audience.

Using Gestures To Enhance Your Speech

Get used to standing with your arms relaxed and by your sides. You will automatically bring them up when you make gestures or comments. Just remember to rest them down from time to time and you will look relaxed and develop a strong, positive posture. Public Speaking Tips - Posture  Details on Posture- click here.

On the other hand, there are three types of gestures you can use with confidence to convey your message and enhance your stories

They are:

  • Symbolic Gestures communicate words, numbers, position. Speaking with Gestures
    For example:

    • A raised hand signals for a stop

    • A thumbs-up showing you agree

    • Three fingers for the number three

    • Pointing to show a position – up, down, behind, beside.

  • Descriptive Gestures communicate an idea or movement.
    For example:

    • Spreading hands apart to show length

    • Using hands to show a shape.

    • Swaying hands to show a flow of movement.

  • Emotional Gestures suggest feelings.
    For example:

    • A clenched fist to show anger. It is hostile and threatening.  It could also convey the sense you are hiding something.

    • Hands clasped to show pleading.

    • Using a pointed finger.  This makes you look accusatory, even if that wasn't your intent.

The Most Effective Gestures Are Spontaneous.

These gestures are purposeful. They are the outward expression of your inner thoughts and feelings.

Use gestures with purpose in public speaking situations and you will engage your audience, and help them comprehend and remember your message.


Speak with confidence Charmaine Burke
Art of Communicating ©



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