The role of gestures and mannerisms when speaking in public

Your body says more about you than you think…

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Non verbal communication

The gestures and the mannerisms are the movements that we make with our body to complement or affirm the discourse, it is expected that a healthy person with a normal motor capacity can express itself with eloquence in the way of speaking (as mentioned in the previous post) and to reinforce their attitude with the right movements.

Analysis of the mannerisms


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Hands behind or hiding

This position is inadequate, hiding hands will transmit to your audience that you also hide something, in addition to projecting insecurity.

Similar when we bend the arms, this position blocks any connection we want to have with people in the auditorium.

Hands in the pockets

Keeping your hands in your pockets is a bad idea, it’s a symptom of nervousness, that position provokes other series of uncomfortable positions; such as a fluttering effect, when moving the arms back and forth. On the other hand, it can also indicate arrogance and
indifference, if we add to that position an active gesture on the face we will be in the presence of a person who projects indifference.

Finger pointing

The use of hands is the most complicated for the speaker, this part of our body can even betray us unconsciously, making involuntary gestures, playing with objects, or in the worst case constantly making the same movement, again and again distracting the public.

If we must point out something, the wrong way to do it would be pointing with the finger, since it would reflect a direct attack on our interlocutor.

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Proper use of the hands


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Undoubtedly the hands are the biggest challenge of a speaker, but with practice, you can be aware of the involuntary movements and avoiding inappropriate gestures.

Remember that whoever has the opportunity to address a group of people, must also assume moral responsibility. There are signs that can send a double message or be misinterpreted, diverting the attention of the message, losing the goal of what you want transmitted.

Therefore, to not destroy our discourse, we must give good use to our hands and arms, learn gestures and postures that reaffirm the message instead of being a distractor factor, for example:

  • Open hands, the adequate way to point objects or people.
  • The loose arms, it is not necessary that we always use the arms and hands, on occasion it will be enough to have them relaxed, especially if you have doubts about which gesture to use, it is better to give the impression of being relaxed (keeping your arms loose) than doing pirouettes with the hands. Of course, it would be inappropriate to present the whole speech in this posture because it would detract enthusiasm for your participation.
  • Symmetry with the hands, keeping them raised together and in the same position transmits the idea of control and you are comfortable and confident with the message

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Attention to audience reactions.

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The correct thing is to always observe those who listen to us, to learn, out of respect and above all, we want our listeners to perceive that we are interested in them.

In auditoriums or smaller events, it is possible to watch attentively each one of those that are present, which allows to break the ice and to create familiarity between the listeners and the speaker.

When there are many people, it is recommended to choose several people from the audience and as the topic progresses, little by little, interacting with the selected people.

Keeping eye contact with the public will allow us to identify whether they are paying attention to the message, what kind of reaction they have to the message (approval or rejection) and most importantly, by seeing the moment integration with them is achieved.

It must not be too long, and remember that we must be cautious, as staring or for a long time at someone else can be considered offensive, whereas if we look at nobody we project indifference.

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How do we improve the mannerisms?

  • Although everyone is free to choose their gestures and movements, it is recommended that, for academic and formal events, the posture and movements show seriousness and prudence.
  • observe other people who have good oration, who are recognized for correctly using their hands and looking, and emulate their mannerisms until we do them in our own way.
    *Use tools such as video cameras, which will record our practice session, then identify and evaluate which gestures and postures are appropriate and which not, then discard the inappropriate and reinforce the positive.
  • Request the help of someone, to constructively criticize our mannerisms. The opinion of a third party can help make our self-evaluation more sincere.

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[Oratory Course]

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Leave a comment of what country and region you are and what are the most common mistakes that they make when speaking…

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This post was translated by the Spanish translation team of @lit. Thank you @alcidescadizfor taking our services and helping the community in taking another step toward a greater understanding of one another.


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