To Gesture, or Not to Gesture? That is the Question.

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”  ~ Albert Camus

I have an International Speech Contest speech posted on You Tube. It’s been fun and educational to watch the comments. Among the appreciators are some very passionate protests about my “gestures” – words like “frantic”, “contrived”, “over the top”.

When I first started providing workshops, I was a “mover”. I struggled to get my words out, or to relate an important point; so gestures happened. If people drifted off or glazed over in the middle of a teach point, I made a quick gesture (illustrating the point I was on, not something else) and BOOM! I had their attention back.

I never thought about gestures. That was how I naturally showed up.

I joined Toastmasters to hone in my speaking skills. Weird. With all that teaching and training, I still turned into a sweaty, stammering, spaztic heap of stress when I had to deliver a “talk”. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was this:

Don’t try to be the same as everyone else.

I am a spilly-talker.

Maybe there’s some Italian in my heritage (That would explain the brown eyes), or maybe the stars aligned at my birth to say “Carol will be a spazz”.

All I know is, I have to consciously tame my movement, where many people have to work hard to bring movement up.

Or do they …?

robot-148989_150I know a very famous speaker who truly has horrible “gestures”. He is not naturally a gesturer. He’s worked on this! Unfortunately, he looks like the mechanical Abraham Lincoln at Disneyland. Here’s a man making a ton of money from speaking (though one could argue it’s really from all his books). He even teaches other people to speak like him … at $5000 for 5 days!

He has great material. He has great books. This is why I want to listen to him. Yet, to get any benefit from what he says, I need to not watch him. If I watch him, my mind gets stuck on his mechanical, manipulative “gestures”.

When your actions or words seem mechanical or contrived, your audience will begin to wonder “What is she hiding? … What does she really think about this? … What’s for dinner?” and your message will not get through.

The answer? Be authentically you.

If you are naturally a non-gesturer, the odd time you actually tools-191794_150move will be memorable and profound. You can use movement as a tool for emphasis.

If you are naturally a “spilly-talker”, then the odd time you stay still, straight and neutral will be memorable and profound. You can use LACK of movement as a tool for emphasis.

Has someone has told you to work on your “gestures”? Try these two exercises today:

Choose someone you are very comfortable number-146021_150talking to. Have a normal conversation. Pay attention to your body movement, hands, facial expressions, pauses … This is your “Natural state of conversing”.

number-146022_150Now tell that person a story about something profound, exciting, life-altering, inspiring – something that fundamentally changed who you are today.

Did you naturally amp up your “gestures” to help communicate the magnitude, the excitement and the deep impact of the events in your story? This is your “Natural state of speaking”.

Note the differences. Ask your friend what he/she remembers most from your conversation. It will likely be an area where you help-146370_150were both in agreement and laughed together at something ironic, or shared a connection over something profound.

Now ask your friend what he/she remembers most about the story you told. Think about what you were doing at that moment. It’s likely that movement shifted. If you had been very still, you suddenly became more fluid with natural and meaningful movement. If you had been very animated, you suddenly became very still and your voice and pace changed. Had you NOT changed your normal mode, the point would have blended in with all the other blah, blah, blah.

“You remember what wakes your brain up.”~ authentic Carol Carterism

When you suddenly change your natural state of speaking, people pay greater attention to the words you say in that moment.

The next time someone tells you to work on your “gestures”, don’t change your natural state. Consciously choose a MOMENT to alter your state for emphasis.

Be true to your authentic self.

“Perfect isn’t memorable. Raw and authentic – now THAT’s memorable.” ~ authentic Carol Carterism [tweetable]

I’d love for you to post comments and feedback, stories and examples below. Share this post! (see social media links) Help more people discover what truly get them heard and remembered.