Imagine delivering a keynote speech, and the words that come out of your mouth in front of your audience are flawless! Not only what you say, but how you say it, comes across like fine poetry. But did you know the use of words only accounts for a small part of your speech?
You may wonder, “How in the world is that possible?”
Throughout recent history, there has been much debate about the statistics of verbal vs non-verbal communication. One UCLA researcher stated that 93% of all communication is non verbal, and while we won't argue the exactness of that statistic, it does highlight the power and importance of body movement and using gestures in public speaking.
The way we speak and move is a powerful means of communicating with others. Using gestures in public speaking can be an excellent way to gain the attention of your audience, as well as help you emphasize important points or concepts.
Can you imagine during that same keynote speech in which your words were perfect, you as a speaker were fidgeting on stage? Perhaps constantly touching your hair or playing with your glasses? Or worse yet, you being as stiff as a rock, your hands are permanently fixed at your sides or gripped on the podium?
In this scenario, how would your audience consciously or subconsciously react? This highlights the fundamental truth:
Gestures can Make or Break your message!
If done correctly, using hand gestures and other parts of the body allows you to connect with the audience by expressing ideas and thoughts. Certain gestures provide clarity to a speakers message and aids the audience to identify emotions and intensity.
If done incorrectly, your words may suggest that your message matters, but your body language can tell a different story.
Think about it, if you were fidgeting on stage, would the audience believe you were confident, persuasive, or inspiring? Most likely not! But if we are purposeful in our hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions, without a doubt we would enhance our message!
Gestures and Body Language: A Talent or A Skill?
When it comes to public speaking, body language is incredibly important. It can be the difference between an engaging, successful presentation and one that falls flat. But what is body language, exactly? And is it something that you're born with - a natural talent - or something that can be learned and perfected with practice?
The answer to this question is a little bit of both. Some people do seem to have a natural gift for reading and using body language effectively, but anyone can learn the basics and improve their skills with some practice.
So What Are The Basics of Good Body Language in public speaking?
Here are a few tips:
- Stand up straight and tall - this will make you look more confident and poised
- Have a relaxed but alert stance - don't slouch or cross your arms, which can make you seem tired or disengaged
- Use open hand gestures when speaking - this will help keep the audience engaged by giving them something to focus on other than your words. Using closed hand gestures (like clutching fist) can be seen as confrontational or aggressive!
- Keep good eye contact with the audience, but only occasionally glance at notecards if necessary - too much looking down at notes can make it difficult for people in the back of the room to see what's going on. If possible, memorize important points so that you're able to speak without needing notes. Using key phrases is also helpful
Natural in Everyday Life-> Natural on Stage
When you consider your everyday speech with family, friends, or colleagues, do you make a concerted effort to think about each hand gesture you are about to use? Of course not! We use gestures without even thinking. This highlights that gestures come naturally to us, from our inner selves. From the time we can talk, we use hand and body movement as part of the natural communication process.
As you gain experience in giving presentations in the workplace, at school, or a keynote speech at an industry conference and become more at ease in speaking, any gestures that you do use will express your inner feelings naturally. The audience will be able to sense your confidence, conviction, and sincerity.
We speak every day using hand gestures, so naturally, we should use gestures in public speaking. More than just our hands, another valuable part of our body to better connect with our audience is our face!
Without even uttering one word, our face can display so many ranges of emotion. Fear, Happiness, Excitement, Anger, Indifference to name a few. When we can speak and couple this with appropriate hand gestures and facial expressions, it will add a visual and emotional impact on our audience.
What Do The Experts Say About Using Gestures in Public Speaking?
Brian Tracy, top sales training and personal success authority in the world today, along with the creator of the top-shelf virtual course- The 6 Figure Speaker, gives some practical tips regarding the use of gestures and body language in public speaking:
Get Help with Using Gestures in Public Speaking!
Gestures are a powerful way to communicate your message, so use them wisely! Using gestures in public speaking can help you connect with your audience and get more people engaged. Using these techniques will give your speech an impact no matter what the occasion is - whether it's a business presentation or delivering wedding vows!
Whether you need to give a presentation for your job or are a seasoned speaker looking to brush up on your skills, here are a few online learning tools that will help you along the way:
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, take advantage of the many online resources. Please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘ for a detailed review of some online resources for public speaking.