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  • Writer's pictureShweta - Pro-Orator Academy

Gesture - a key tool for your Public Speaking

Updated: Sep 25, 2020


Speaking with someone does not always need words, as our body speaks more than our words. It is a law of nature that starts from the mother’s womb itself as the mother talks with the baby start kicking inside the tummy, and that is how the conversation begins.

Even according to the research, the first thing when we see in any speaker is not the shoe, eyes, face, appearance but the hands because that’s the first thing which helps us to build trust with the other person. If we cannot see someone’s hand, we become uncomfortable we often think that the person is hiding something.

Now, many times people often get confused with the gesture and body language. So, understand this, a "gesture" is an intentional/purposeful motion of a body part (such as your hand or head) to signal something to other people. For example: "Father gestured his daughter to come closer" (he moved his hand in a way that indicated she should come closer to him).

"Body language" is more general. It includes both gestures and unintentional body positions/motions (e.g., how your hands or head move naturally when you talk or listen). Body language can also include different positions a.k.a. "posture"; such as the way we stand or the way we walk.

Body language includes any information that you can analyze a person’s emotions mindset, etc. from looking at the way they move their body or the way their body parts are positioned. Gestures are signs that say their own language. It helps you communicate in a stronger way than just using the words. A study shows that when the speaker uses gestures, the probability of the audience remembering the point is double than a normal speech.

Always remember, while you are on stage, your hand movement is the largest movement that the audience can see, even from a distance.

Science of Gesture

A statistical analysis done on the TEDx talk shows that the least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures whereas, the most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures during their talks of average duration of 18 minutes.

There is some interesting research done on the psychology behind the gesture by Spencer Kelly (Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Colgate University. As per his research:

Hand gesture makes people to pay attention to the acoustics of the speech. He said, “Gestures are not merely add-ons to language – they may actually be a fundamental part of it”.

Hand gestures are natural to people and it comes as a reflex. He also found that blind people use hand gestures while conversing with other blind people too.

Another research by Professor Andrew Bass (Cornell University) says that using hand gestures during the speech helps others remember better. It also helps the speaker to speak effectively.

1. Give Hand Gesture

The ‘Give’ gesture is used to give the audience the facts, options, etc. Remember to have your palms facing upwards while making this gesture. Also make sure that while you are making this gesture, don’t let your elbows stick to your body, it will make you look comical. Spread out the hands, personally, this is my favorite one you can see in all my YouTube videos. When you hold your hand front-facing open position your words capture the essence of telling the audience that “I am telling you the truth and you can trust me” For example, You can use this gesture by giving someone direction or command.

There was a study about a nice hand gesture done by Allan and Barbara Pease. As per their research, 84% respond to palm facing upwards, 52% of them respond to palm facing downward, and 28% or lesser respond to the finger point.

2. The Show Gesture

The ‘Show’ gesture shows the actual action of the messages you are giving.

This has the widest variety of gestures as the action can be directly related to your words and mostly up to your imagination or visualization of the word into action. However, while using this gesture, make sure that the gesture doesn’t contradict the statement itself. For example: If you want to show how much progress you can do in the future you can show that by using your hand. Even showing yourself with the hand is also an example of this.

3. Chop Hand gestures

The ‘Chop’ gesture is used to deliver a strong opinion. You can either use one hand or use both. While you are using both hands, it will give you an option to deliver a stronger message. You can use one hand or both. Use this to convey a strong opinion, a rule, or a law.

4. Showing numbers Hand gestures

If you really want to tell effective points in your presentation, you will love to use the power of your figures for showing the number. Remember that majority of the people are more receptive to visual clues than being auditory. Hence when you are saying anytime about a number, showing the number gesture with the hand ensures that the number registers in their head more than just saying them.

5. Steeple Method

Hand steeple is a gesture that is a universal display of confidence. The person brings their hands together in front, with finger-tips touching each other, forming a structure akin to a ‘church steeple’.

This gesture has been widely used by the people in leadership positions. This is a useful gesture that you can use to convince others about your commitment or your confidence level about the topic you are talking about.

As you can see in the picture, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is known to use this method.

6. Interlaced Fingers with thumbs up

Interlacing the figures with thumbs up are usually used by people with their hands on their lap or on the deck while making any statement.

The rising thumb is a significant gesture that genuinely puts an emphasis on the point. This a spontaneous behavior that comes along with the emotions of the speakers as well as the commitment.

7. Clinton Thumb

This gesture named after its wide usage by Bill Clinton and likely adapted from the style followed by John F. Kennedy.

This gesture has a thumb touching the side portion of the index finger which is a part of the closed fist or slightly projecting out of the fist. This is an emphatic gesture that doesn’t exhibit the anger of the clinched fist or pointing finger hence it is considered to be a less threatening gesture.


While you are preparing for your presentation, you can think about the content, practice the suitable gestures in your speech, and plan accordingly.

Let me touch upon one topic we just talked about having the palm facing upwards while making gestures. There are few other variations people use, such as palm down, or even point a finger.

Never use your finger on your audience.

It shows arrogance and no public speaker other than a politician use this. It is mostly a negative and offensive gesture and the audience will never like it.

Always remember the key thing that gestures are there for you and the audience. Use it wisely and you’ll make a deeper connection with them.

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