What Should You Do with Your Hands in Public Speaking?

Posted on Posted in Public Speaking

A lot of people ask me what they should do with their hands when they are addressing an audience. My answer to them is simple. “What do you do with your hands when you are talking to your family, your friends or your colleagues?”

If you are not sure of the answer to the above question, next time you are in conversation, pay attention to your body language and specifically your hands. As you talk, notice whether you move them or not. If you are standing, where are your arms? Are they hanging loose at your sides or are you using them as you speak. If you are sitting at a table or desk, are your arms resting on the table or are they possibly folded across your chest?

If you find that you tend to use your hands when you talk, then do the same thing when addressing an audience. (Bear in mind, the best in public speaking are those who treat their audience as if in conversation.) Another suggestion is to hold something in your hand – like the remote for your PowerPoint presentation.

While using your hands in speaking adds to your delivery, if you find you are perfectly rigid, I suggest you practice learning how to use them effectively by recording yourself. The best way to do this is to record yourself during a normal conversation. (You may feel uncomfortable at first; but, after a few minutes you will forget the camera is on.)

What I do not suggest is making movement that is not natural. One of my clients was giving a presentation and she would throw her right arm into the arm in a most unnatural manner. When I questioned her about this, she said that she was a member of Toastmasters and they told her that she didn’t move enough.

Making movement for the sake of movement is not what I am advocating. Expressing yourself by means of your vocal variety, facial expression and body language is very individual. There is no right or wrong except for the lack of any expression.

We tend to make public speaking more difficult than it is because of our fear or nervousness. When you can look at the act of presenting for what it really is – the conveying of a message to satisfy the needs of your audience – you will find yourself concentrating less on your hands and more on accomplishing your mission.


For more information, watch my video on YouTube, The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speaking, and watch what I do with my hands.