She Knew How to Move Her Body, Work Her Hands, and Don’t Get Me Started on Her Eyes

November 2, 2010

My presentation about body movement, hand gestures, and eye contact. It got some laughs, especially for my impersonations of Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yesterday I delivered my second Toastmasters presentation: Organize Your Speech. Below you’ll find my presentation’s:

  1. Video
  2. Transcript and Slides
  3. Feedback

1. Video

2. Transcript and Slides

Last weekend, I met a woman. Let me tell you — did she knew how to move her body, work her hands, and don’t get me started on her eyes.

Yeah, she was one hell of a speaker. While talking, she knew how to control her body movement, use hand gestures, and maintain great eye contact.

So inspired was I that tonight I’ll be talking about these three things. Because if you improve your nonverbal signals, it can make a bigger impact on your speaking than anything else. In fact, three out of four doctors agree that the number one killer of presentations is bad body language.

Madam chair, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests: Tonight we’ve got a fantastic show for you. You’ll see a fun picture slide for each topic, followed by an entertaining video clip that shows how not to do these things. Then, as an added bonus, you’ll get my final tip for each one.

So Joe, are you ready for this? Well I guess we’ll find out if you are.

Let’s start with body movement.

1. Body Movement

Four words of advice… You have no idea what I’m about to say, the suspense is killing you… “Move like Steve Jobs.” In a world of stiff corporate presenters, Jobs is a rock star. His body movement is smooth and relaxed. Tomorrow, if you visit and click the link where I’ve posted this speech, you’ll see a link to a great presentation by Jobs.

But it’s hard to do positive body movement if you’re behind a podium. Doug Jefferys, a speaking coach, said that the podium is like a fortress. You can hide behind it and fire things at people, but if they return fire you can duck. It’s a barrier between you and your audience.

But if I walk up here, our proximity is intimate. You don’t dare fall asleep either, because you know I’m close enough to kick your chair.

Eva, would you like to see how a political candidate shows us how not to pace between the podium and the audience? [I play this video clip of Republican candidate Phil Davidson, running for the position of Treasurer for Stark County, Ohio, from 1:55 to 2:12:]

He should switch to decaf.

If you want to see that full video — it’s incredible — I’ll have a link up tomorrow. But his constant pacing from the podium to the audience looks ridiculous. It also kills his credibility because if a candidate must read from notes to tell you what he believes, do you believe the guy?

Your body movement is only as good as your hand gestures though.

2. Hand Gestures

I’ve studied the hand gestures of politicians and many of their gestures are funny when you think about it.

A British politician does this one: the “dead spider.”

And see how Bill Clinton has his thumb up there? Now Lal, do you know how Billy boy got this gesture? Clinton used to point at people like a gun when speaking, so then he cocked back that finger with his thumb down on it, and it became: “I did not, have, sexual relations, with that woman.”

Let your hands flow naturally and smoothly. And forgive me if my gestures are stiff. I’ve been told I’m a stiff dancer, too.

But some comedians like Conan O’Brien gesture rapidly for humorous effect, so study comedians’ gestures, too.

Sandra, have you ever been unsure of what to do with your hands? Then you’ll relate to this: [I play this video clip for from Talladega Nights from 0:21 to 0:47:]

3. Eye Contact

Now let’s look at eye contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Maintain eye contact with your audience” has to be the simplest advice that is so easy to screw-up! We look up or down. And if you read notes or slides, trust me: people will think that you don’t know your material, you bozo. They won’t be back.

To connect with each person and to see their reaction, hold eye contact with them for a few seconds. You can do it!

Unless you’re teaching young kids in Junior Achievement. It’s hard to maintain eye contact with them because someone’s always talking. I scream at them: “Who’s talking, where, I hear someone talking, where are you? Who are you?”

Zara, do you want to see a clip of bad eye contact? [I play a video clip of the movie Patch Adams from 5:45 to 6:14. In this scene, Patch is sharing personally-sensitive information with a doctor. The doctor makes no eye contact but fusses with adding the desired amount of cream to his coffee.]

That doctor is cold and unfriendly, huh? That’s how your audience feels if you don’t look at them.

That concludes the movie portion of our show, but I’ve saved the best tips for last.

Body movement: Practice in front of a mirror and tape yourself on camera. You got to do it! If you’d like me to tape your speeches for you, I’m happy to — for a nominal fee. I’m kidding, just ask me.

Hand Gestures: Be open, smooth and relaxed rather than closed, stiff, or choppy.

Eye contact: Unless you have a reason for looking away, always be looking at someone. A speech is not a nude beach. It’s okay to look at people here.

If you’ll please stand and join me in a toast. Let’s use our bodies, gestures, and eyes in ways that do not distract, but that augment and amplify our spoken messages. To our success. Madam chair.

Thank you for the standing ovation. You’re too kind.

3. Feedback

As a Toastmaster, you get feedback from an evaluator assigned to critique your speech. Each Toastmaster at the meeting also completes an evaluation form. And some people give you feedback in person, which I always appreciate.

What people liked:

One person wrote “You defined a new era of speech delivery :) ”  Another person said, “Great performance! Come on # 3!” Those made me feel great! Many people said I was entertaining and they liked my enthusiasm. And I got the Smile Award for my Schwarzenegger impersonation.

What people suggested I can do to improve (and my thoughts, too):

  1. Smile: I forgot to smile! It’s ironic, because I had a blast delivering this speech, but I looked somewhat serious at times. I usually rehearse in front of a mirror, so it’s easy to ensure that I smile when I can see myself. But when I speak to an audience, there’s no reminder to smile. For my next speech, I’m going to put a smiley face or something like that on the table in front of me to remind me to smile.
  2. Too much content: Maybe I tried to cover too much material for a seven-minute speech. I spoke too fast, without enough pauses, trying to cram everything in. Next time, I’ll use less material.
  3. Positioning: I delivered most of my speech with a few people behind me. I feel bad about that. [Edit: I emailed the people seated behind me to apologize for standing ahead of them. But they all said I frequently made eye contact with them. So that's good.] It was tricky because people on the side were seated within four feet of the front wall. To stay in front of everyone, I would have had to stand very close to the front wall. The other challenge was that there wasn’t much room for me to move without standing in front of the projector. Next time, I’ll ensure I’m standing in front of everyone. (If needed, I’ll ask people if they can sit a little further back from the front wall.)
  4. Hand gestures: I need more variety. I use many different gestures when I practice in the mirror. Next time, I’m going to rehearse more in front of a camera without using a mirror.
  5. Vocal variety: I could have adjusted my voice pitch more often. I used more variety in my rehearsals, but I was a bit monotone sometimes in front of the audience. Next time, I’ll rehearse more before an audience, because it seems adrenaline causes me to use less vocal variety.

Do you think this was my best or worst speech ever? Please let me know what you liked, or where I can improve, in the comments below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

WiseNinja November 12, 2010 at 8:27 am

I think you demonstrated these principles well in your speech, and nice website plug too ;) Amount of content is always an issue, for blog post lengths also, there is always a debate. Beyond about a page of content you’ll lose many readers (they’ll bookmark / instapaper etc. for later, or just turn back for lack of time) but long posts have their virtues too.


Kevin Kane November 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Thanks Alex.

You’re right about trying to keep posts shorter to retain readers. Most readers skim rather than read each word.

Google Analytics helps show me what people are reading, skimming, or skipping. For example:

  1. Boost Productivity 52% and Save 2.5 Hours Daily with Multi-Monitors. At 3271 words, this is my most longest and most popular post. The average time spent reading this page is 10:09, suggesting people read some details, rather than just skimming.
  2. 5 Proven Benefits from Volunteering with Junior Achievement. At 3135 words, this post is nearly as long as the first. But people spend only 1:15 on this one. Clearly they’re skimming.
  3. 7 Predictions for the Future of Computers. Only 597 words, but read on average for 5:47. Each word is read.

For each of my posts that includes a video, the average time on the page matches the video length.


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