It’s almost startling how many people, learning that I’m a public speaking coach, will tell me about a training course they took and what it taught them about hand gestures. I’m here to tell you that unless you are moving your hands, arms, legs or body in some wildly distracting way, (incessant movement, uncomfortable looking confinement, using anything in your hands as a noise maker, weapon, or device other than its intended purpose) you can STOP thinking about gestures at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of gesturing, and I admire those who use their hands and bodies as instruments to help them get their message across. There are those of us, myself included, who can’t speak unless we use our hands to help us. Because this is our natural way of expressing ourselves, using our hands is a good thing.
It is NOT such a good thing, however, when people who don’t commonly use their hands in normal conversation start trying to gesture when presenting. If you are among those who have been persuaded by a well meaning presentations trainer to try this, you know how awkward and uncomfortable this feels. FAKE is the word I would use. And that is exactly where the trouble begins.
Presenters MUST be authentic, organic, real. You cannot be any of those things when you’re using gestures and mannerisms that are not your own. It looks inauthentic because it is. What’s more, who says you have to be a great gesturer to be a great presenter? Not I. And not your audience either.
It’s not about the gestures. WHO CARES about the gestures? (Aside from presentation trainers). I say, start a mutiny! Buck the system!!! Be YOU, hands idly by your side. If you’re really brave try putting one hand in a (gasp) pocket. (Do take the change and keys out first, however. Your hand should be resting there, not playing all that metal like a tiny pocket tamborine.)
How does that feel? Better? More natural? You betcha. Are you able to concentrate on your message and your audience? Exactly. NOW we’re getting to what really matters. Gesturing smesturing. Focus on your audience and your message and you’ll have them eating out of your hands, gesturing or no. And you’ll be heard.