Gestures: Focus on Performance (Part 3 of 5)

I was born in Brooklyn in the early 1970s.

Most of my parent’s friends were animated talkers – think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas – so using my hands while speaking became as natural for me as speaking itself.

Little did I know at the time that my gestures were actually helping other people remember more of what I said.

According to body language experts Allan and Barbara Pease, “Using hand gestures grabs attention, increases the impact of communication, and helps individuals retain more of the information they are hearing.”

Something amazing happens in our training sessions when we encourage spokespersons to incorporate gestures into their delivery – their words actually get better. The physical act of gesturing helps them form clearer thoughts and speak in tight, staccato sentences. Here are some techniques to keep in mind:

For seated interviews, keep your arms open and ready to gesture at any moment. When not gesturing, keep your arms on your lap with your hands near your knees. Avoid clasping your hands, which is regarded as a “closed” form of communication.

For standing interviews, keep your arms by your side or, even better, in front of your torso. Avoid hugging your body in any way and resist the temptation to place your hands in your pockets.

As I mentioned in my previous post on energy, there’s an easy shortcut to bringing your natural gestures to a media interview. Just speak at a slightly higher volume than usual, say 10 or 15 percent louder. It’s often enough to help re-animate your frozen hands and bring out your inner Pesci.

You can find the other four elements of body language here: Energy, Eye Contact, Posture, Voice