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Ask a Speaker: What should I do with my hands when I’m speaking in public?

May 6, 2013

speaker panel

The “ask a speaker series” consists of a series of posts, each one designed to answer a common problem people face when speaking in public. We ask our top speaking experts, with almost a century of public speaking experience between them, how it’s done.

Hands can be both a blessing and a curse when speaking in public. They can get in the way and make you look nervous. This wee we’ve asked some top tips from our speaking panel on what to do with those pesky things at the end of your arms on stage.

George Jerjian (Marketing Professional, Past President 2001-2):

Generally, your hands should not be left by the side of your body as unwanted friends. Use them to naturally, like Italians, reinforce what you are saying. Go watch the film The Artist to see the power of hands and body language.

Vaughan Evans (Strategy Consultant, Member since 1990):

Default position should be by your side, then wield them to emphasise a point.

David West (Retired Benefits Consultant, Toastmaster for over ten years):

Practice gestures that will enhance the meaning of your speech and use your arms from your shoulders wherever possible. If in doubt keep arms still by your side and avoid clasping them – also pointing – but do try to move them purposefully during your speech to add emphasis.

Jakub Pawlowski (National Speech Competition Runner Up, London Division Governor of Toastmasters International):

Develop a default position which feels relaxed. For me it’s having your hands alongside your body. Lift them up to emphasize the point and remember that they’re essential part of your body language. And as soon as you’ve done your gesture, go back to default position.


Have you got a question to ask our panel. Feel free to post any questions in the comments below, or contact us at with your public speaking related questions.

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