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Help! I'm Making a Speech. What Should I Do With My Hands?

Sep 17, 2008
Can you recall a time when you were standing in front of an audience, their full attention upon you and all you could feel was extremely exposed and self-conscious? All speakers feel this way at some time and the most overwhelming problem in this situation seems to be what to do with your hands. Nothing you do with them seems to feel natural or easy.

Having to address an audience, all of whom are eagerly awaiting the start of your speech, simply magnifies the problem of what to do with your hands.

Is it acceptable to put your hands in your pockets? Or would it look odd just leaving them to hang limply by your sides? Or should you fling them wildly about in the belief that 'grand gestures' look natural from the audiences' point of view?

And the more you focus on what to do with your hands, the more you will become distracted from what you should be saying and the more anxious you will begin to feel.

So, give the following tips a go and you'll soon find that you can forget all about your hands and concentrate fully on the job of delivering an audience-pleasing and enjoyable speech.

Learn to relax. It is a basic truth that you only begin to worry about what to do with your hands when you are feeling stressed and up tight. In your normal, day-to-day life you don't give a second thought as to what your hands are doing as you speak to you family, colleagues and friends, do you? And the reason is solely because you feel at ease and are not experiencing any nervousness at all.

Try and notice whether you regularly use hand gestures to help illustrate what you are saying to people at other times. See if you can describe to a friend how to knot a tie or try and convey the shape of a spiral staircase and see just how you use your hands to help enhance your words.

If you find that the use of hand gestures comes naturally to you, then continue to use them when making your speech. If you do what you always do, you'll find that it won't feel artificial or forced.

In general, if you don't gesture naturally, then don't try to start!

It's a safe bet that if you feel at all nervous, your emotion may be unconsciously demonstrated by what your hands are doing. Are you repeatedly putting your hands in and out of your pockets, clenching your fists or clutching your notes tightly?

Realize that gestures such as desk banging, finger pointing and fist clenching will always appear to have hostile or negative overtones and may even be insulting to people belonging to certain cultures. Be certain to avoid these at all costs!

Carefully limit your gestures during your speech or you will simply appear to be windmilling your way through your presentation.

If you find that focussing on what to do with your hands during your speech makes you feel uncomfortable, spend some time practising relaxation techniques and trying out different hand gestures in front of a mirror in the privacy of your own home. Being able to see what the audience sees will soon allow you to relax and enjoy delivering your speech.

Just as your words go towards making up your speech, so do your actions. Simply be aware that they just form another part of your communication with your audience and should be accepted as a natural part of your presentation.

Once you can see how the use of your hands can help give greater meaning your words, you will begin to find that you no longer think and worry about what they are doing. Instead you will discover that you are feeling relaxed during your speech and the use of your gestures will come completely naturally.

When you can do this, you can congratulate yourself on graduating to the next level of expertise in public speaking!
About the Author
Be sure to get your free copy of Jane Thomas's 7-part video eCourse that will show you exactly how to become a Superstar Speaker . You'll discover many more public speaking tips simply by following the highlighted links.
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