Importance of Gestures in Public Speaking!

Body language is an important aspect when it comes to public speaking. When a speaker communicates with his audience, it’s not only limited to the “WORDS”, but it’s a combination of words, verbal delivery, and body language. There is a widespread myth that the words, themselves, constitute only 7% of face-to-face spoken communication, with body language contributing 55% and vocal characteristics the other 38%. Nevertheless, body language is clearly important for effective public speaking.

It has been said that our actions are well determined by our own thoughts, and if that’s true, then, the opposite of this is also possible. To be specific, if you are a beginner in public speaking, then we are aware how stressful that can be while standing in front of an audience and being in the spotlight. Body language is used to boost confidence and to focus public’s attention.

Using your hands as a storytelling tool is how you can best explain yourself in both personal and professional scenario. Navarro indicated in Psychology today that the human need to see hands during social situations is inherent — likely because we don’t always trust the words coming out of someone’s mouth.

With proper hand and finger movements, the conversations one has and arguments one makes, become more compelling and trustworthy.

While this may not be true in every case, hand gestures often help to emphasize certain points of speeches and strengthen the speaker’s message. Research shows that influential speakers use more hand gestures than average speakers, and they use the gestures where the crowd is sensitive. People pay attention to movements and gestures during speeches. If you purposely use your body to stress a certain idea, the audience is much more likely to remember what you said eg: clap, pointing, expansion etc.

The movement draws attention to what you’re saying at that moment and draws attention to the important parts of the speech. An active speaker leaves a better impression on the audience than an inactive one. Using hand gestures can make the speaker more animated, and it is pleasing to one’s eye to have a moving lecturer as opposed to a stationary speaker the entire time. It’s not that the lecturer is boring, but using more gestures and body movement will help the audience to stay alert during the presentation.

Body languages including hand gestures can be thought of as a second language that augments and amplifies whatever it is that you’re talking about, and in some cases, the only way to get audience to really “understand” what you’re talking about, or to get them to believe your message is by performing the proper gesture at the proper time. You probably know the idiom “a picture says a thousand words”. Hand gestures work in the same way.

Some people believe that public speaking is an ability that only a few “chosen ones” can execute well. While I personally don’t consider myself to be a great public speaker but I do think that anyone can become one. While the ability to be charming, engaging and persuasive comes naturally to some people (think Steve jobs). I strongly believe that these are traits that can be learned. And more importantly, perfected over time-e.g: Mark Zuckerberg. His talks were, for a lack of a better term, utterly pathetic, and he seemed to be unprepared and very nervous all the time. But over time he became more confident and his last talks were just brilliant.

So, ultimately everyone needs to START, so, for your next public speaking chance, do remember the surprising impact of hand gestures and body language.

— Tanmay Nagdeve