GESTURES: YOUR BODY SPEAKS
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More than half of all human communication takes place nonverbally. You are
sending nonverbal messages – even as you read these words.
When you speak in public, your listeners judge you and your message based on
what they see as well as on what they hear. Here’s how to use your body to
effectively enhance your message.
GESTURES: YOUR BODY SPEAKS
When you present a speech, you send two kinds of messages to your audience.
While your voice transmits a verbal message, a vast amount of information is
being visually conveyed by your appearance, your manner,
and your physical behavior.
Research shows that more than half of all human communication takes place
nonverbally. When you speak before a group, your listeners base their judgment
of you and your message on what they see as well as upon what they hear.
In public speaking, your body can be an effective tool for adding emphasis and
clarity to your words. It’s also your most powerful instrument for convincing an
audience of your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm.
However, if your physical actions are distracting or suggest meanings that do
not agree with your verbal message, your body can defeat your words. Whether
your purpose is to inform, persuade, entertain, motivate, or inspire, your body
and the personality you project must be appropriate to what you say.
To become an effective speaker, you must understand how your body speaks. You
can’t stop sending
your audience nonverbal messages,
but you can learn to manage and control them.
That’s the purpose of this manual:
To help you learn to use your entire body as an instrument of speech. As you
read on, you’ll learn how nonverbal
affect an audience, what kinds of information they transmit,
how nervousness can be alleviated by purposeful physical actions, and how to
make your body speak as eloquently as your words. Included are how-to sections
on proper speaking posture, gestures, body movement, facial expression, eye
contact, and making a positive first impression on an audience.
Also featured is a special evaluation form that can help you identify your
body’s spoken image. With it you’ll be able to determine your nonverbal
strengths and challenges and eliminate any physical behavior that detracts from
what you say during a speech. You can then use your body as a tool to make you a
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Your goal in public speaking is to communicate. To be an effective speaker, you
must project earnestness, enthusiasm, and sincerity by making your manner and
actions affirm what you say. If they don’t, the results
can be disastrous.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear
what you say.”
When you speak, people not only judge your speech – they also judge you. If they
are not convinced of your earnestness and sincerity, they are also unlikely to
accept your spoken message.
What you are is more clearly communicated through your nonverbal behavior than
through your words. When presenting a speech, your listeners will use their
visual sense to determine if you:
4 GESTURES: YOUR BODY SPEAKS
Learn to Look for Body Language
Amid polite applause, the speaker shuffled toward the platform, his face
registering the look of someone being led to the guillotine. Upon arrival, he
set down a pile of notes and sighed audibly. After tugging at his necktie,
adjusting his eyeglasses and clearing his throat, he fixed a doleful gaze on the
room’s back wall.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here today,” he said. “I have a message of extreme
importance for you.”
Many people in the audience were already fidgeting. It was obvious that others
were focused elsewhere. Ten seconds after it began, the speech was already over.
To begin with, the speaker set himself up for failure by sending his listeners
edged message. What they saw contradicted what they heard, and when this
happens, the audience inevitably trusts only what it sees!
Even though the speaker’s words expressed pleasure in addressing the audience,
his nonverbal message said,
“I don’t want to be here.” Those same words declared that his speech was
important to his listeners – but his body indicated that his message wasn’t
important to him. Simultaneously,
his facial expression gave the appearance that he cared very little about his
None of these visual messages was performed consciously; they were generated
by simple nervousness and inexperience. Yet they branded this unfortunate
speaker as insincere and indifferent – even though he was none of those things.
welcome the opportunity to address them
truly believe what you’re saying
are interested in them and care about them
are confident and in control of