Hands and How to Use Them

What to do with the hands? When we're relaxed, just hanging out with friends, we know exactly what to do with them. We fiddle with our phones, we tap our fingers, we sip our coffee. And while that's fine when you're hanging out, it's not fine when you're making your speech. (I mean, sure, if you need to take a sip of your drink during your speech go for it, but taking that sip can't turn into “the thing you do” with your hands to keep them occupied – if you take a sip like a nervous habit, that's all people will notice, something Marco Rubio got criticized for in his response to the State of the Union.)

The things you do with your hands in normal conversation are “distracted habits.” The problem is that, in your speech, they become “distracting habits.” The energy you spend on jiggling those keys in your pocket are getting in the way of your talk!

You need to put your hands in the service of your speech. Try it in two steps:

First, practice your speech with your hands in a neutral position. Keep them to your sides, or clasped in front of or behind you. Feel what it is like to speak while putting a bit of your focus on keeping your hands out of the picture. Pretty soon this will start to feel weird. You'll feel your hands wanting to move. But resist for a bit and keep going.

That leads us to the second step. Once you can't stand it anymore, let your hands move, but let them move in service of your speech with gestures that have a specific beginning and end. Use them to emphasize points, to open up an argument and to bring a sentence to a close, to illustrate the things you are talking about. You don't need to do much. A little goes a long way.

And if you want some shortcuts to getting comfortable with those hands, contact MUSE today.