How are your gestures when you give a speech? What do they say about you?
Some speakers seem to believe that gesturing is a lot like having red hair or the measles – either you have the capability to gesture or you don’t, and very little may be done about it.
But gesturing is as natural as walking and as easy as counting to 3. The challenge is that people have merely walked and counted to 3 far much more frequently than they have gestured whilst giving a speech. But how well could an individual walk if he had been using a push chair all his life?
Whilst people will gesture as many different ways as they walk there’s a fundamental principle in gesturing which, when practiced, will probably make this activity much more understandable and easier to do.
Each gesture, regardless of whether or not it stresses or describes a concept, has three distinct parts: 1. The approach, 2. Stroke! and 3. The release.
For instance when a girl slaps a boy she draws back her hand, (approach), Wham! (stroke), then she lets her hands fall to her side, (release). Or a baseball pitcher winds up -approach, throws – stroke, then releases his hand.
Whether gestures are made with the hands (in almost any position), the head, face, shoulders, or feet, the principle is the same – approach, stroke, release.
Some speakers simply make a weak approach, leaving their hands hanging in the air without a stroke or release. Some make the approach and stroke but no release. Still other people merely start an approach without finishing it.
Gestures should be produced positively, with reason and confidence. Naturally, weak, uncertain, timid bodily action leads to an audience to feel that a speaker is unclear about his ability, probably not well prepared to speak, and generally ineffective as a persuader.
When gesturing a person’s whole body should work as a unified method of communication. A speaker should “lean into” his gestures instead of throw out his hands like leaves falling from a tree, or as though he had been a mechanical man loosely connected at the wrists. Also he should encourage large curved movements instead of short, angular, jerky ones. Let a speaker reach up and out in all directions, freely using the cubic feet of air about him.
Naturally effective gestures will match with the meaning of speech material. Sometimes a conflict occurs, as the time the priest announced, “When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there!” As he talked he pointed emphatically straight down! But he didn’t mean that in any way!
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