More on Arms and Hands

I was watching a video of an ex-TV correspondent turned  media trainer today.  Almost everything was right on the mark—EXCEPT his body language. He was talking to a group of people, arms tightly folded in front of him.

Now, many body language experts say that folded arms mean you’re closed to your audience.   I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I was taken by  the fact that he didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands.  Being on TV makes it easy: either a correspondent is sitting at a desk, so we only see the top part of the body; or he or she is holding a microphone, instantly giving them something to do with their hands.

Speaking without a mike in hand, especially to a live audience, presents other challenges. It may be okay to fold your arms if you’re talking to a small group.  However, imagine how awkward this would look talking to a group of 100 or more people.

I always teach the “neutral” position.– Shoulders relaxed, hands loosely at your side.  Hand gestures should  be used sparingly; otherwise, they can distract from your message.  Gestures should come  out of meaning, to emphasize a point or emotion.

At first, cutting down on gestures will be uncomfortable for people who are used to wildly gesticulating.   However, gestures will take on greater meaning when used discerningly.

Coming Attractions

  • Simple exercises to help you relax arms and shoulders
  • New edition of The Public Speaking Wire newsletter–Subscribe Here.

Body Part I: Hair, hair

Some people may see stars in their eyes, but others only see hair. That’s because it’s in their face and distracting the audience. Women with long hair in particular run the risk of hair-in-the-eyes. Have you ever noticed how someone will continue to push the hair away from their face? Often they’re not even conscious of this movement, but it’s a distraction for the audience.

The audience wants to see your face and your expressions. Bangs covering your eye may look sexy in a picture, but on a platform or stage bangs that hang over your eyebrow only hide your eyes. So, let your hair frame your face, not cover it.

See our examples, below.

Hair in the face gets in the way. Wear long hair away from the face
Hair in the face gets in the way. Wear long hair away from the face
Good hair: out of the face, not a distraction from the message
Good hair: out of the face, not a distraction from the message

Hand gestures add meaning, but beware!

The Hand Thing
Hands pose a dilemma for many public speakers. What do you do with those hanging appendages? Flail them wildly, use grandiose gestures?
Well, save those grandiose gestures for an opera stage. Less is more when it comes to using hands for effective public speaking. In fact, too much use of hand gestures can create distraction for your audience.

Gestures that portray nervousness or insecurity:

Women –brushing hair out of their face
Men – hands in pockets

Common to both sexes:
• clasping hands in back of you
• Grasping or holding podium for dear life
• Rocking back and forth.

Gestures can add meaning and emphasis to a word or phrase. But, to be most effective, keep gestures simple, minimal, and meaningful.

Stay tuned for our posts and tweets on body parts and how they affect public speaking.
Up next: more on hair.

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