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The Fine Points: Gestures and Mannerisms

Your gestures and mannerisms can help you gain the support and confidence of your audience, or they can make people uncomfortable and even antagonistic. By far the best way to spot your gestures—both good and bad—is to videotape yourself practicing or giving your presentation. Replay your speech until you have broken it down into the series of gestures and mannerisms you rely on. Here's a list of the most common ones and how they are perceived:

Defensiveness

Arms crossed on chest

Crossing legs

Fistlike gestures

Pointing index finger

Karate chops

The fig leaf position

Reflective

Hand-to-face gestures

Head tilted

Stroking chin

Peering over glasses

Taking glasses off—cleaning

Putting earpiece of glasses in mouth

Pipe smoker gestures

Putting hand to bridge of nose

Suspicion

Arms crossed

Sideways glance

Touching or rubbing nose

Rubbing eyes

Openness and Cooperation

Open hands

Upper body in sprinter's position

Sitting on edge of chair

Hand-to-face gestures

Unbuttoned coat

Tilted head

Confidence

Hands behind back

Hands on lapels of coat

Steepled hands

 

Insecurity and Nervousness

Chewing pen or pencil

Rubbing thumb over thumb

Biting fingernails

Hands in pockets

Elbow bent, closed gestures

Clearing throat

"Whew" sound

Picking or pinching flesh

Fidgeting in chair

Hand covering mouth while speaking

Poor eye contact

Tugging at pants while seated

Jingling money in pockets

Tugging at ear

Perspiring, wringing hands

Playing with hair

Swaying

Playing with the pointer, or marker

Smacking lips

Sighing

Frustration

Short breaths

"Tsk" sound

Tightly clenched hands

Fistlike gestures

Pointing index finger

Rubbing hand through hair

Rubbing back of neck

 

To control your body language, all the points discussed in this chapter have to come together and work for you. How frustrating it must be for a speaker to deliver a speech with a grand, pressing purpose, only to have the delivery marred by nonverbal mannerisms that alienate the audience. Positive and powerful body language should support your verbal message and help you appear confident, caring, and in control in any situation—whether you are talking to a large audience, your boss, your colleagues, or your family.

Controlled body language that reinforces your strengths as a speaker carries your audience along with you to the point where it gets your message—loud, clear, and compelling. A good way to make that message even more compelling is to add a proper dose of humor, and Chapter 17 will show you how.


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