Here’s a tip you might like, because it’s used by elite professional speakers. Three points about the tip are that it’s:
- Yet surprisingly effective!
Let me show you how it works…
In your talk, suppose you’re discussing the passage of time, or the steps in a process, or items in a list. At times like those, you might often gesture with a sideways movement of one or both arms (or hands, or with your whole body – depending on factors like the size of the room, how much emphasis you want to add, and so on).
If you don’t think about what you’re doing – and you don’t practise on video beforehand – you’ll likely gesture from your left to right, because that’s what feels natural to you.
Take a look at this 5-second example to see what that type of gesture looks like:
Note: If you’d like to replay the clip, please use this link to open it on another tab, because when embedded in a blog post, YouTube doesn’t support replaying a clip from the same point. (Or, you can press F5 to refresh the page, and then click the video below again.)
How did that look to you? To me, because from our viewpoint the speaker’s movement went from right to left, it seemed counter-intuitive.
So if you do that when you speak, your gestures will subtly distract people and detract from your message (rather than making your talk clearer and more convincing). Of course, that’s hardly the effect you’re aiming for!
(I’m assuming your listeners’ own language reads left-to-right, like English. If you’re presenting to people whose language reads right-to-left – or vertically – please gesture to suit them.)
Compare that first video with this 2nd one. Here, the same speaker’s talking about 2 strategies, but this time he gestures from our left instead of his own:
If you want to replay the 2nd clip, please use this link. Or again, press F5 and then click the video screenshot.
Don’t you think that looks better? I certainly do.
Like other tips (such as addressing people singly rather than as a crowd, or flipping a photo of a person so they face the middle of your slide), it’s quite a subtle point. But used together, tips like that can make a huge difference to your effectiveness as a speaker.
- Have you noticed speakers gesturing from the left or right?
- What other remarks or tips can you share on this topic?
Also check out these posts
- Using true eye contact, meaningful movement, and natural gestures when you present [Video]
- Critique of Allan Pease’s TEDx talk on body language [Video]
- Body language bullshit – beware, public-speaking baloney!
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