What to do with your Hands During a Speech
Words communicate to the conscious mind.
Body language communicates to the subconscious mind.
Both are needed for public speaking.
One part of body language includes the hands.
What do we do with those damn hands?
You ever had that moment when you were posing in a picture…
But didn’t know what to do with your hands?
On this particular day, your pants didn’t have pockets.
And a part of you felt strange just leaving them dangling by your side.
So what did you do?
You put one arm around the person you were posing with.
And the other palm on your stomach.
The next day when you’re tagged on the Facebook post, you are moving in despair.
‘Why did I do that with my palm??’
That’s also a question for a lot of public speakers.
The question of what to do with your hands during a speech.
But before I answer that, let’s understand the power of the palms.
The Magic of Hands
Palms are not just important in terms of public speaking.
Palms are important in terms of communication in general.
The next time you feel doubt & a lack of creativity, just stare at our palms for 5 minutes.
Just look at your natural tools.
After the 5 minutes are up, there will be a level of creativity surging in the spine.
It’s because palms connect us to our inner creative spirit.
We feel more in charge when we look at our palms.
And we command more respect when we show our palms.
Others love seeing our natural tools.
Whether they know it or not.
They subconsciously love it.
By looking at our palms, trust gradually builds.
When trust builds, you can do a lot of things wrong around others, but there will still be love.
The Torso Box
The torso box is a framework that I learned in Toastmasters.
It goes like this…
Imagine there is an imaginary box in front of your torso.
Take a little bit of time & envision it.
Now, keep most of your hand gestures in that box.
(No need to be super strict with this box. The outline gives your visual receptors a rough feel for when something is off).
Mainly escape the box when you are making a grand point.
‘I was THIS tired after my workout today.’
*a grand stretch of palms which indicates large*
You don’t need to always move your palms by the way.
Keeping them to the side is perfectly fine.
It will feel tough because a part of you feels exposed.
All good, wear that invisible bulletproof vest of confidence.
The torso box gives the mind a rough framework to operate in.
Because without a semblance of a framework, you may overdo it…
And speakers do overdo it.
Public Speaking Distractions
Want to know 3 things that are annoying for your audience during a speech?
Well, we are going to hear it anyways!
- Squeaky shoes.
- Walking around nonstop.
- Jerky hand movements.
The torso box prevents number 3.
Where you got helicopter arms going on.
This is a natural quirk because the mind is like:
‘Palms build trust. Palms build familiarity. Therefore, moving my palms a lot will build more trust & familiarity.’
In the communication world, less is not more.
Less is WAY more.
And in a similar case, the same principle holds true with hands.
You don’t want a great message getting distorted with little quirks like that homie.
Practicing Hand Gestures
Do it mindfully before doing it mindlessly.
That’s the law of life.
From riding a bike.
To brushing our teeth.
Mindful to mindless transition is elegant.
But don’t let yourself think that elegant means lack of effort.
In terms of practicing your hand gestures, make sure your speech is first finished.
The speech will dictate the flow of the palms.
When we stray away from making the speech the star, our palms will sway all over the place.
This makes the process of learning what to do with your hands during a speech feel impossible.
Know your speech well!
And we know the speech well when we get a FEEL for it.
There’s a certain rhythm that hits our chest & automatically makes our palms move.
Look out for those pulses of beats in the chest.
Next, we are going for the holistic approach, not the reductionist.
The reductionist approach breaks things down into small components.
The holistic approach goes for a general feel.
Go for a general feel regarding your palms.
This is where recording your practice speeches come in clutch.
Watching them back gives you the perspective of an audience member.
From there, just make the mental note:
Hit record & start speaking like you are talking to a LIVE audience.
Less is WAY More
There’s a way to over-practice in public speaking.
And over practicing leads to over-stressing.
Overstressing makes it difficult to spot what to do with your hands during a speech.
Set the baseline rule to follow the 5x rule.
This is when we try to get our speech down perfectly, 5 times.
Anytime we mess up, start over.
And by perfect, I mean that you were able to get thru the entire speech & were happy with the way it turned out.
By perfect, I do not mean that you recited the words verbatim like a parrot.
Go for the feel.
Don’t sweat the palms too much.
Although they are powerful, they are just a tool at the end of the day.
When I drive my car, I care that all the parts are working.
Overall, all the individual parts create a larger system.
I don’t just obsess over the steering wheel day and night.
That’s lopsided thinking.
Likewise, the palms are a great tool in your public speaking game.
With soft skills, you are required to BECOME the instrument.
Much harder than it looks.
You have a mind.
You have a body.
Take time every day to focus on the bigger picture.
Adopt the ‘less is way more’ mentality.
Because in the communication world, this mantra holds true time and time again.
Let your Palms Captivate
Open palms are the way to go.
Avoid pointing too much.
Open palms are the 8th wonder of the world.
‘What are the other 7?’
Damn, I just picked an arbitrary number fam…
Let me live.
In all seriousness, palms won’t necessarily always break your speech.
But you can be damn certain that they will amplify your speech.
Therefore, it’s important to learn what to do with your hands during a speech.
This amazing message that you have…
Do it justice.
Put work in during the practice sessions.
The beauty of public speaking is that the game is all about iteration.
Meaning that the preceding rep will influence the latter rep.
The junk will be removed.
Moves will be refined.
Rinse and repeat.
No effort goes wasted in the world of the speech.
Do it mindfully before you can do it mindlessly.
And that will keep the iteration process smooth, enjoyable & a way to wind down.
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