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What to do with your hands?

iStock_000005690712XSmall.jpgIf you have ever stood up in front of a group you must have been faced by that age old conundrum – What do I do with my hands?

Do I hold then in front of my crotch as If i am protecting my modesty? D0 I clasp them behind my back like Prince Charles?, Do I stick then in my pockets to stop myself picking my nose? Do I cross my arms?, Do I hold on to a pen with both hands ain the hope that it is some sort of talisman to ward off the evil eye of my audience?

My recommendation is that you use your hands purposefully to punctuate, physicalise and support your verbal messages.

There is interesting research that suggests that hand gestures are an essential part of our communication process. If we restrict our gestures, our speech becomes less fluent and we may actually find it more difficult to find the right words!

Ok but what do we do with our hands when we are not gesturing?

Great question. Imagine that you were standing upright and that you were calm and completely relaxed. Notice how your hands would just hang down by your sides, completelty at ease. This is the natural place to rest our hands and arms when we are not using them.

I know it will feel a bit strange at first, especially in a presentation where you may be initially feeling anything but calm and relaxed, but trust me. Once you become used to it it will feel comfortable and will actually help you manage your nerves.

Now, from this position you have full mobility of your whole arm from the shoulder and can make nice big, open gestures. Contrast this with many speakers who gesture from the elbow only and look as if their upper arms are welded to their sides.

So now you know, go out and apply it.

Gavin

3 Comments

  1. […] in May 2008 I wrote a post to answer the question posed by many nervous presenters – “What do I do with my hands?”   In it, I focussed on a comfortable resting place for your hands when not gesturing.   […]

  2. Olivia Mitchell on 21/05/2008 at 01:35

    I found this really interesting paper abstract. It’s an experiment in which they immobilised a speaker’s arms and looked at the impact on their fluency. And, yes it did reduce their fluency. http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15683678

  3. Olivia Mitchell on 20/05/2008 at 10:14

    Hi Gavin

    I’m really interested in the research you mention about gestures improving the fluency of our speech. Can you give me a reference for it?

    Many thanks
    Olivia

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