Body Language – Let Your Gestures Talk

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “What The Dog Saw” describes research where the results of a full 1 hour job interview are compared with the assessment of a group of people who just get to watch a video of the first 15 seconds of the same interview process. The first 15 seconds is generally the hand shake, the smile, eye contact and a few other gestures. Surprisingly the group that saw only the 15 seconds of video had an 80% correlation with the assessment of the job interview panel that spent a full hour of questions and answers to draw their judgment on the applicants. Once again, gestures, body language, smiles, eye contact and posture delivered a very large part of the applicant’s personality, traits and indeed the message.

Other research also finds that gestures are extremely important and integral in successfully getting your message across when public speaking and presenting. From the research and my own experience as a speaker and trainer, it is clear that body language cannot be underestimated in its impact in helping a speaker deliver their message.


Over time gradually expand the range and complexity of gestures that you can use. Develop the depth and the range and the variety of gestures that you can use.

As you grow your gestural vocabulary, get feedback on the effectiveness and appropriates of your gestures. Get feedback by video recording your speeches, practising in front of a mirror or have someone in the audience take notes and provide you specific feedback on your gestures.

Don’t fake or act out your gestures. They need to be spontaneous, genuine and real gestures. It is important to use body language within your range of what is natural. It is also important not to spill over into acting; the audience will sense that you are acting and you risk losing your authenticity as a speaker.

If a speaker is trying to persuade and speak sincerely on a topic but is standing stiffly without any body language, the audience will see this and possibly think the speaker is not sincere and therefore be less likely to believe the message.

Don’t be afraid to make large and bold gestures. If the audience is large and you gesture small, they will only see small gestures and they may not match what you are saying. The larger the audience the larger the gestures and body movement needs to be in order to be effective.

The recommended resting positions, when not gesturing are keeping your hands by your side, or a gentle clasp that falls effortlessly in front of you. If using a lectern, then resting them on the lectern when not gesturing will have them ready for action.

Avoid distracting gestures and movements such as finger twiddles or hand gymnastics, clapping of hands, rubbing, playing with pens, jewelry and other distracting items. Try to remain calm and centred on the stage and avoid pacing, rocking, swaying, foot tapping or other distracting movements that we sometime see.

So the next time you prepare to speak or present, what are you going to do to prepare to be effective and more open with your gestures? How are you going to get feedback to see how you went and what can you enhance or change to make your gestures and body language even more effective? Remember a large amount of your communication; your sincerity and your message are in your body language. Let your body talk.

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