Five Hand Gestures That Will Make You a Better Speaker

Your body language, including hand gestures, can help bring your message home and generate empathy, especially when you are giving an important presentation or speaking in public. Here are some specific gestures to keep in mind the next time you talk.

The video above, by Vanessa Van Edwards , describes some of these gestures and offers some examples in speech, but for those unable to watch, here are the most important ones:

  • When you say a number, point it out with your fingers . For example: “We need to take the next three steps to complete this project on time.”
  • Emphasize the importance of the question with your hands. If you say, “This is a small obstacle,” you will slightly spread your thumb and forefinger to show how small the problem is. When solving an important or large problem, spread your arms wide apart so that your words visually influence your words.
  • Emphasize emotional themes by placing your hand on your heart. This is consistent with statements such as “This is so important to me.”
  • Help others follow your explanation of the two different groups by presenting one group with each hand. Suppose you are comparing two sentences, and your left hand is the first sentence and your right hand is the second. Every time you mention the first sentence, raise your left hand a little higher and vice versa. This helps your audience follow which proposal you are discussing as you go along.
  • With your hands folded, show how two things connect. An example from the video above: “I find people their ideal home.” When you say people, you raise one hand; when you say home, you raise the other, and at the end of the sentence, join your hands. It sounds trite, but the visual accent helps a lot.

Key takeaway: you want your hand gestures to match what you say. Don’t just use gestures to add movement to your speech, but keep them in mind when you’re practicing speaking as a way to keep your audience from what you say.

7 Hand Gestures to Use | Vanessa Van Edwards (YouTube)

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