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Hand gestures when public speaking (part 2)

Your hands can speak volumes. But are they saying what you want them to say?

Have you ever thought about how your hands — and what you do with them when you speak in front of an audience — can give more meaning to your message?
Your hands are an important tool in your speaker’s toolbox. This is part two of a five-part series about hand gestures when public speaking that will help you discern what to do — and what not to do — the next time you speak.


Can your audience even see your hands?

DO keep your hands visible.

DON’T make your hands disappear.

Otherwise, your audience will spend their time trying to figure out where your hands are instead of what you are saying.

Case in point: I once attended an event with several speakers moving on and off stage. One speaker emerged with a fashionable shawl wrapped snugly around her shoulders and arms, right above her elbows.

The shawl was certainly pretty, but as I looked closer, something was not quite right. Once she was in the spotlight, both her arms and her hands appeared to be missing!

I focused harder on the drape of the shawl and kept looking. After a few moments, it was clear what was going on: Because she was clasping her hands so tightly behind her back, her arms had completely “disappeared” from her shoulders with the shawl.

(Unfortunately, since my attention was so fixated on why she looked so uncomfortable and wooden on stage, I do not remember anything she said.)

In general, your hands should “speak” to the audience in an area where they can be easily seen: roughly from your shoulders to right above your hips. Both your arms and your hands should remain visible to your audience.


Are you preparing now for an upcoming speaking engagement? If so, consider what you’ll do with your hands. Half the battle is simply being aware that your hands can speak and then thinking deliberately about precisely what you want your hands to say.
If you can use your hands in purposeful ways that enhance your message with more meaning, you will more successful in winning over your audience the next time you speak in public.