Just How Handy Of A Public Speaker Are You?

by drjim on November 10, 2015

When we are speaking, we need to understand what to do with our hands

When we are speaking, we need to understand what to do with our hands
Image Credit: John

There you are: you are on stage and you are giving your speech. You are about half way through your speech when you detect that your audience is being distracted by something. Don’t they know about the importance of public speaking – they should be listening to you! You are not quite sure what it is: they seem to be looking at you, but they don’t really seem to be following you – something else has their attention. Oh my gosh, it’s your hands! Your hands have captured your audience’s attention and they are no longer focused on you! Whatever is a speaker to do?

The Problem With Hands

Look, I’ve got nothing against hands. I’ve got two of them and they are my friends. However, even I have to admit that there have been times when I have been giving a speech and my hands were working against me!

I think that one of my biggest problems when it comes to my hands is that I don’t spend enough time thinking about them while I am speaking. When this happens they tend to go off and do their own thing. This can include doing such things as being clasped in front or behind me. Sometimes they find their way into my pockets. More often that I care to admit, they end up clasping the podium that is in front of me.

The reason that all of these things that my hands are doing are wrong is because of what it does to my audience. The movement of my hands is what initially catches their attention. Next, they become fascinated as to where my hands will go next. This means that they start watching my hands and not me! The most important thing for any speaker who like me is starting to fight their hands is to realize that they have a problem (I guess I could now say “on their hands”!) This is the start to fixing this problem.

What To Do With Your Hands While You Speak

Once you become aware that your hands may be taking away from the impact of your speech’s message, you are on the road to fixing your problem. What you are going to want to do is to become more aware of where you hands are during your next speech and, of course, what they are currently doing.

In order to start to solve this problem, what you need to realize is that the first step in reaching a negotiated compromise with your hands is for you to try to relax. A lot of the hand waving that we do is because we are nervous while we are giving a speech. As speakers we need to come to accept the fact that we really do not have to be doing anything with our hands all the time during our speech.

Instead, what you are going to want to do is to allow your hands to rest freely by your sides. They are important tools that can be used during your speech. However, you are only going to want to use them both naturally and purposefully in order to emphasize a point that you are making instead of just waving them around while you talk. Your hands can be used to complement the message that is contained in your speech. However, when they are not being used in gestures, then you need to learn to put them away.

What All Of This Means For You

Baring some sort of horrible accident, you can rest assured that every time that you give a speech your hands are going to be coming along for the ride. This is both good and bad news. Good, because one of the benefits of public speaking is that if you use them correctly, your hands can really enhance your speech. Bad, because if left up to themselves, your hands can turn into a real distraction.

One of the problems that speakers run into when they are giving a speech is that their hands can both attract and hold their audience’s attention. If we’re not careful and we allow our hands to distract from our speech, then we’ll actually be battling with ourselves while we are on stage. Instead, we need to take control of our hands. Learn to relax and allow your hands to hang at your sides until needed.

The good news is that your hands will always be there when you need them. You just need to take charge and come up with a plan for what role you want them to play in your next speech. Make a good decision, and you’ll be able to keep and hold your audience’s attention without causing any distractions.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should remove any rings or other things that could draw attention to your hands before you start to speak?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What do you think that your next audience will be expecting from your speech? I almost hate to say this, but do you think that they are going ignore the importance of public speaking and to show up expecting to be bored? If so, then you have a real challenge on your hands. Not only will you have to not bore them, but you are also going to have to bring them back from the edge of thinking that you will be boring them. Not an easy task.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard I. Garber November 18, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Jim:
Excellent post. Back in August I blogged about how Brian Tracy confusingly interchanged the gestures for small and large at the 0:38 mark in this YouTube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX-MaH2Jrq4

Richard

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