Like every part of speech-craft, gestures have a lot to contribute and if done well they will massively improve your speech. Done badly they will at best, do nothing and at worst, ruin an otherwise brilliant speech.
There are various theories (almost all wrong) about verbal and non-verbal communication and what percentage of each contributes to your audiences’ understanding of your message.
- Gestures should match the pace of your speech and be big enough for all the audience to see.
- Make sure that gestures are not hidden behind a lectern or masked by being confined within your own body space.
Most speakers start off by making their gestures TOO SMALL and then find they can’t comfortably enlarge them as they become very self-conscious. I got over this problem by using a gesture I call the “ROOM HUG” at the start of every speech.
- When introducing yourself start by saying “good evening ladies and gentlemen” (or whatever salutation is suited for your speech). Make sure this is a slow well-measured opening
- As you get to “Ladies” extend your right arm as far as it will go and curl the fingers of your right hand slightly inward
- When this is done, move on to “Gentlemen” and do the same with your left arm and fingers
- You can then move both arms very slightly towards the audience, as if you are about to hug everyone in the room at once
Try the “ROOM HUG” and you’ll find it gets you used to making very big gestures which can be seen in even the largest room.
- The curled fingers and slightly inward arms show that you intend to encompass the audience in your presentation and
- Because it’s also a very clear and open gesture, it exudes sincerity to the audience.
This “ROOM HUG” gesture may seem very artificial at first, but with practice it becomes second nature.