Michael H. Schaefer, DTM

One on One Coach, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Trainer

The Putty In Your Hands, Pt. 1

Two Sides of the Same Coin:

The quickest, most efficient way to become interesting visually to your audience is to allow yourself to gesture with your hands. The best way to communicate relaxed confidence (after good eye contact of course) is to let your hands/arms do nothing and just hang at your sides.

We talked about movement in general in the last newsletter, now let’s dig a little deeper regarding hands.

A lot of beginning speakers ask me, “What should I do with my hands during a speech?” Wait for it. Here’s the big secret: The same thing you do with them when you’re having a conversation. Ignore them and let them do their own expressive thing while you concentrate on getting your point across.

Practice Tip: If you’re a stiff speaker, prone to locking up physically, it’s time to dance with the stars. Meaning, under cover of night, or in private anytime, put on some music and practice your speech, telling it only in gestures. That’s right, without words. Don’t play charades or mime objects or actions like an Indian chief in an old Western. Rather, convey your feelings and your enthusiasm. Let your hands fly free, let them dance to the music. Be overdramatic but not fake. Later, when you practice your speech in a natural way, video yourself to see if your hands/arms are gesturing more fully. You’d be surprised what breakthroughs can happen if you get a little crazy or loose.

Here’s some examples of hand issues that may pop up in watching your videos or in a coaching session. But as I said before, I’m not a do this/don’t do that coach. Awareness of any habit is the starting point. Certain gestural patterns may work with minimal distraction for some speakers but for others, the more they speak, the more a fuller, more authentic style will emerge. The real question is: how dynamic can you become and still be uniquely yourself?

PARALLEL GESTURES  A reprise from the last newsletter. Note the upper arms locked at the sides and the forearms moving like they’re tied to the same marionette string.



fig leaf            reverse fig leaf

These postures tend to weaken you visually.



You think you        …but you really
look like this…          look like this.


Are you guilty of overuse? Ask your coach/or trusted friend if it’s too distracting.

Obviously it’s not to you.

In Part 2, We’ll talk about connecting the gesture to the word…

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