A gesture is a specific movement that reinforces a verbal message. A gesture can be made with the head, shoulders, and even your legs; however the majority involve your arms and hands, backed up by the right facial expression as well.
Unfortunately nervousness tends to make the speaker’s hands fidgety. A speaker is unsure about what to do with their hands and so they either gesture wildly or simply grasp the podium in a death grip while the knuckles turn white.
If you would like to know exactly what not to do in terms of gestures, go online and look at old clips of Bill Clinton’s presidential addresses. I pick on that poor guy only because his gesture gaffs are so obvious. Let’s look at how your gestures should be and how they shouldn’t be:
Should be…………….Shouldn’t be
Natural ……………………..Artificial / stiff
Enhance your message …………….Distract from your message
Using Mr. Clinton’s example can you recall whether his speeches demonstrated gestures that were natural or stiff? Did they look spontaneous or as though they were planned in advance? What about other political figures? Do you really think they gesture like that when they’re talking to their friends and family? I doubt it. If my friends and family gestured like that I would tell them to see a doctor.
Here’s an easy trick to remember. If you feel like gesturing then by all means do it. If you are not propelled to gesture owing to the subject matter, then don’t. It’s that simple. That’s the best way to ensure your gestures are genuine. There is no need to over do it just because you’re in front of a large audience.
I know there are a lot of trainers out there on the subject of public speaking that will tell you to make your gestures grand so that even the people at the back of the room can see them. Don’t do it. You’ll just end up looking like a phoney, and once you’ve lost credibility with your audience there is no getting it back. If you are considering performing gestures that you have never used before in speaking naturally, why would you pick the stage to start practicing them? Trust me the audience will not fall for it.
Keep in mind that the goal of any talk is to appear as natural as possible. You want the flow of your speech and the logistics of your gestures and movements to appear as if you were speaking to an individual in the comfort of your own home. That is what makes a winning talk and that is what makes you believable.