(This is Part 6 in the Communicator’s University series. Read Part 5 here.)
When speaking publicly, how you gesture and use your body makes a big difference in how well you communicate to your hearers. If you’re willing to break out of your comfort zone you can really increase your influence.
Use Your Whole Body
Here’s an example. A couple of weeks ago I had an illustrative idea for a message. I was planning to tell my hearers that I’d finally upgraded to buying name-brand Q-Tips rather than the off-brand “cotton swabs”, which I’d settled for for years. You know the difference, right? Extra cotton. I knew the illustration would work because most people could relate to the experience. Everyone knows what it’s like to finally get something of quality, rather than settling for saving a few pennies. Anyway, I knew that if I illustrated that by using my body well it would increase the impact of the story and make it (and the lesson) memorable.
So I laughed, and then I walked to the mirror. I stood there straight as a board and talked about cotton swabs, lifting my arms straight above me, like I was making a tight touchdown signal. Then, when I switched to talking about Q-Tips I expanded my arms like they were holding something massive. It looked funny in the mirror, and I knew it would be effective–as long as I exaggerated the differences.
Bigger is Better
And that’s the lesson: When gesturing you must exaggerate the differences, especially as the room and audience increases. It will feel awkward to you at first, like you’re going too far. But you won’t be. If you’re talking about Moses parting the Red Sea, fling your arms wide-wide-wide. Don’t you dare separate your hands by 12 inches. Go after that sea! If you’re talking about reaching to the top shelf to get something, I want you wobbling on your tippy-toes, making your hearers feel your story. And if you’re talking about Q-Tips, make them the most massive Q-Tips anyone’s ever seen.
Under-experienced communicators betray their insecurities by keeping their gestures small. Consequently they lose influence and lose hearers. But you’re different; you’re literally looking in the mirror. Push past your boundaries and you’ll see that this will increase your confidence and your effectiveness.
Calibrate according to the size of the crowd.
Don’t be spasmatic.