Newer public speakers often wonder what to do with their hands. They assume they’ll be nervous, and fear they’ll look foolish if they don’t have just the “right” gestures.
In this public speaking tip, I say: Let ‘em be.
By that I mean leave your hands free to do what they want. Don’t worry. Even if you are quite nervous, your hands won’t do anything bizarre. In fact, they tend to act rather naturally while you’re speaking.
Hands generally follow the flow of the presentation. As you look one way, you will naturally gesture in that direction. Then as you turn to the other direction, the other hand will offer a gesture.
When you are making a point, you probably will point. And if you’re counting off a series of items, you will naturally bring one hand up and tick off the numbers with fingers. Trust yourself. Your gestures will be better than you expect (or fear).
Some people make what I call the waterfall motion with both hands. It’s an outward circular motion that by itself is not bad. But like any gesture or motion, it gets a little distracting if used throughout a presentation.
Don’t worry about that. Concentrate on delivering your material. As long as your material is solid, your audience will leave enriched and your presentation will be a success.
As you become more comfortable in public speaking, you will devote more effort to delivery mechanics. Those include eye contact, vocal variety, and gestures.
Another useful speaking tip is to keep your hands empty. This will prevent you from clicking a pen (if you usually carry one). Also, guys, keep your hands out of your pockets. A nervous person tends to jingle pocket change. That is equally annoying.
I posted a video about this on YouTube which you can watch here.
Proper gestures are valuable to a presentation, but will develop with experience. Trust yourself, and get out and speak!
For related reading, see “Eliminate filler words for a more effective presentation” and “Gain valuable exposure by writing and speaking locally.”