The Appropriate Gesture For Public Speakers

The Appropriate Gesture For Public Speakers

This is the first of three articles on gestures for public speakers. This deals with appropriate gestures. The following two articles will deal with inappropriate gestures and mannerisms.

When speaking in front of an audience, gestures enhance the talk as seasoning enhance a meal.

There are three aspects of gesturing that speakers need to be aware of. Using them can enhance a speech or turn your audience off. Even worse, in some cases you could even put your life in peril. Yes, the wrong kind of gesture could and has resulted in harm to those using them.

What are...

Appropriate Gestures

Inappropriate Gestures


Appropriate gestures typically include two types.



Types of Public Speaking Gestures

Emphatic Gestures

Emphatic gestures are subjective. They express those things you feel in your soul and resolves you embrace. They can be the period or exclamation mark at the end of a phrase. They can give power and energy to the speech.

They need to be blended into what you say. If transiently used here and there, they will look stiff and unnatural. They need to spring from your inner self.

If it is not your nature to be demonstrative with your hands, there is hope. To help put the nonverbal communication into your character, think of a favorite person or actor who you like who is great with gestures. Then when you're up, imagine being them. Imagine it is them doing what you would never do.

The more you do it, the more natural it will become.

There is an exception. Your lack of ability is a great quality to have when in front of a TV camera on close up. This is a time not to use hand gestures. The gesturing does need to be in the face however.

The unnatural feeling you have is the one thing that makes the person who is in the nose bleed section know your alive. The movements they see are small. So if you want to appear as though your alive, you have to communicate with your body.

Descriptive Gestures

Descriptive public speaking gestures are objective in nature. They show how big, how small, which way, position, and location. Anything you can touch.

Often speakers will use flat extended hand to point when before large audiences. In large auditoriums, few will readily see you hold one finger up. The same would apply for something so small that you held two fingers to describe how small it was.

To use a descriptive gesture, think of catching a fish and how big it was. My dad, in describing the size would hold his flat palms parallel and together and start spreading his arms. As the distance increased between his hands he would say, "It was about this..."

By now his arms were extended as far as they would go. My guess, they could be at least four feet apart. And then he finished, "...far away from the boat before it got away."

The Other Gesture, Facial Expression

Facial expression is the best non-verbal communicating feature we have. We can show a host of feelings with out saying a word. It can show happiness, sadness, disgust, joy, and delight.

One of the most basic delights we can share is a smile. It takes so few muscles to do this. Nothing will have greater impact regarding a first impression. Of all facial expressions, master this one.

It can move mountains. It can convey your interest in your audience. It will help you make a connection if you're truly sincere. Remember to add the seasoning, master the use of that non-verbal body language and facial expressions.

Failure to do so, well, could potentially make a lecture cruel and unusual punishment. So learn, master and use public speaking gestures.

There are some gestures that should never be used. Learn which ones in the next article in this series of three.

Learn more about gestures. Go to