Keep an Audience Engaged without Saying a Word

Business group of people attending and listening at conference

Public speakers who use a lot of hand gestures are able to communicate better with their audience than those who use little or none. They can keep the audience’s attention and interest on a much higher level. As it turns out, a recent study showed that our brain likes it when it receives communication in both verbal and visual forms.

Vanessa Van Edwards, a famous behavioral consultant, analyzed the renowned TED talks and found that all of the videos that went viral were of talks conducted by speakers who used a minimum of 465 hand gestures. Videos that didn’t go viral were of speakers who used 272 or less.

When you want to leverage your language in keeping your audience with you, knowing the points below will lead you to win any public-speaking events.

Why Gestures Are So Important

We unconsciously read body language from the people around us every day. When you’re a public speaker, you are there to convey a particular message to your audience. If your hand gestures don’t match your words, you won’t be successful.

Language and gestures light up the same area of the brain and if they don’t jive, the brain gets confused, which is definitely a big issue for a public speaker. You want to captivate the audience and maintain their attention the whole time yet without descriptive motion, the success rate is low. Learning how to generate your message through hand gestures is an art you should perfect.

A listener’s attention will be unfocused or bored by someone who stands to hold the podium the entire speech. The audience wants to be stimulated by more than just words and you need to address that.

Avoid Unnecessary Gestures

You don’t want to flail your arms about, or chop at the air in front of you. Moreover, you wouldn’t want to clinch your fists, unless it is in direct relationship to what you’re talking about.

Your arms should be bent slightly at the elbows in front of you. Use your hands to gesture from your shoulders to hips (like the strike zone in baseball). Keeping your hand within this range allows the audience to see your face and hands at the same time.

Keep your hands away from the crotch area, unless in direct correlation to the subject. For instance, clasping your hands together and letting them hang in front of you draws the eye right there—where you don’t want to draw the audience’s attention.

Use Descriptive Hands

Use your hands to indicate what you’re describing. Show how small and large, round or square, high and low something is—it’s like an extra period at the end of your sentence.

Your gestures will allow the audience to follow along with what you’re saying by using one hand for pros and the other for cons. You will then help the audience remember numbers under 10 by indicating them with your fingers.

Keep your palms open when not gesturing. Speech and body language coaches teach that open palm gestures show that you have nothing to hide.

Refrain from Doing Aggressive Motions

Don’t point—ever. It comes off as aggressive and can turn an audience against you quickly.

Balling your fists and moving them up and down as if pounding on some imaginary object in front of you is another no-no. Speech coaches frown heavily upon it. You’re trying to draw the crowd in, not set them aback.

Try to avoid the flappy-hand syndrome. Your wrists and back should be straight, but not stiff—it’s the equivalent of good posture. If you don’t present yourself well, you won’t sound believable at all.

Practice Spontaneity

Obviously, if you’re a public speaker, you should be well-prepared before the event and should follow an outline of topics to discuss. However, you would want to appear spontaneous, not dull or robot-like. It’s important that you should capture the interest of your audience by dropping witty quips, appropriate puns, and a good analogy told by a short story.

Your audience should remember and comprehend your message. If your speech sounds memorized, they will spend their time criticizing and picking you apart, rather than paying attention to what you have to say.   

In Conclusion

When you have your words, gestures, and postures in sync with each other, your audience will deeply latch with what you’re conveying much easier. They will retain the information better and have a more enjoyable experience.

Your hands are the most important part of your speech. It may not seem so, you’d think your words are, but both complement each other. Should your hands become out of sync with your words, the audience isn’t going to understand what you’re saying clearly, which makes your hand gestures pretty darn critical to the success of your speech.

Some people are natural hand talkers in their everyday life, while some are not. A few of those who aren’t very good at body language can become downright annoying. Gestures can be overdone and will actually become a distraction, if not carried out properly.

The key is to use your hand gestures to complement and accompany your words, not overpower them. Take the time to get your hands in sync with your words and your next speech with be a smashing success. Incorporate hand gesture into your existing marketing strategy, podcast, and your daily routine.

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