The phrase actions speak louder than words can be applied to multiple contexts.
Usually, we use this phrase when talking about human behavior, but it’s oddly applicable in another realm as well: public speaking.
What on earth do actions have to do with public speaking? A lot more than you might think!
A speaker’s posture and gestures can communicate volumes to an audience.
In fact, many of the world’s best public speakers have earned their reputations not for what they say, but for how their audience perceives them.
No matter what career path your students choose, public speaking is a skill that will serve them well and can set them apart from the competition.
Keep reading for 6 postures that the world’s most successful public speakers use to really get their point across.
Holding the Ball
The move: gesture as if you’re holding a basketball between your hands low in front of your chest
The effect: appear commanding and dominant
When to use it: when you’re trying to persuade an audience or establish your authority
The move: with your elbows bent and your hands out to the sides, keep your palms facing the sky
The effect: appear honest and accepting
When to use it: when you’re trying to gain someone’s trust
The move: with your elbows bent and your hands in front of you, face your palms towards the floor
The effect: appear strong and assertive
When to use it: when needing to calm down a crowd after delivering important or controversial news
The move: clasp hand together in a relaxed pyramid
The effect: appear self-assured and relaxed
When to use it: when you’re nervous and want to appear confident
The move: imagine there’s a box in front of your chest and confine all of your hand movements to this space
The effect: appear trustworthy and truthful
When to use it: when you need to seem likable with a new crowd
The move: stand still while speaking with your feet about shoulder width apart
The effect: appear confident and in control
When to use it: when establishing your role as an authority figure
Practicing These Moves In the Classroom
Oftentimes students need to see how these different gestures affect the impact of their presence in order to believe it.
The following is a great way for students to play with these different moves and think more actively about what they’re doing with their body when they speak.
Once students have prepared a presentation that they’re going to be giving in front of an audience, have them practice it once in front of a video camera.
Then, have them watch their recording and pay special attention to their body language. You can even have them watch the video with no sound to really hone in on their gestures.
Are they standing still or moving around? What are they doing with their hands? How’s their posture?
After they’ve analyzed their video, have students pick 1-2 of the moves above that they want to try.
The gesture that they choose should be determined by what the purpose of their speech is.
Is it more important that they appear trustworthy or assertive?
Once students have practiced the hand motions a few times without presenting, have them record their presentation a second time, only now with the new technique/s.
Again, have students analyze their body language in their second video recording. How does the use of these gestures change the impact of their speech?
Chances are, it will take a few at-bats for these movements to become natural, but once students get the hang of them, their speaking skills will soar.
Not only will students appear more confident and comfortable, but chances are they’ll feel more confident and comfortable with these tricks up their sleeve.