Public Speaking: Parts and Types of Gestures
Types of Gestures
1. Head: Most young speakers do not avail themselves of the opportunity to express meaning through head gestures. When we think of gestures, we usually think of the hands, but a moment's reflection will show you how important the affirmative and negative movements of the head are in conveying thought.
2. Face: Facial expressions are important in conveying emotions. Personal non-verbal messages are transmitted mainly through the face. A face may indicate a mood or a reaction. A set mouth, raised eyebrow, or wrinkled forehead may be worth a thousand words. The most expressive part of the face is a person's eyes. Misty, dancing, dreamy, sad, hurt, wild, laughing, anxious, hard, cruel, shifty, demanding, playful, curious, teasing - these are just some of the ways of describing messages eyes can give.
How do you feel when you are talking to people and they are looking past you or around you? How does an audience respond to a speaker who looks at the ceiling or who assumes a poker face of a "dead pan" expression in public speaking?
3. Hands: These are effective tools of making ideas emphatic, meaningful, and forceful. Hands can be as expressive as the face if you have them under control. For this reason, use your hands whenever necessary in making your ideas forceful and meaningful. But, when there is no need of using them, put your hands at rest by the sides of your body.
Hand gestures are of different kinds and here are the common kinds used by many speakers in action: the open hand called the giving gesture; the hand prone or the restraining gesture; the pointing index finger called the pointing-out gesture; the closed fist or emphatic gesture; and both hands for accentuating a movement or direction, or for supplication.
In the open hand gesture, the thumb is away from the rest of the hand. The fingers are extended but relaxed. The fingers touch slightly but are not held rigidly together. The index-finger gesture is made by extending the index finger and making a ring with the thumb and second finger. The fist gesture is made by closing the fingers and binding them tightly together with the thumb.
When in action, the hand gestures follow a certain pattern. Usually, in gesturing with the hands, the elbows should be held a few inches away from the body. The gesture travels away from the center of the body, and, except in gestures of precision, the gestures move usually in a circle away from the body. The wrist leads in the approach for every gesture.
Here is an excellent exercise which will help secure a relaxed hand: move the hands back and forth across the body, keeping the wrists ahead of the fingers, i.e., letting the fingers trail along. Or vary this exercise by raising or lowering the arms, always letting the wrists precede.
The Parts of the Gestures
There are three parts in every hand gesture: the approach, the stroke and the return.
- In the approach, the wrist usually leads the way. The approach may sometimes be swift or sometimes deliberate, its timing being dependent on the intensity of the thought.
- In the stroke, the hand is raised and is brought down upon the accented thought. The stroke precedes the word emphasized by the fraction of a second. The stroke can be vehement or gentle, depending on the nature of the thought it is helping to portray.
- The return consists of bringing back the hands to lie at rest by the sides of the body. The return must be made as inconspicuous as possible.
For graceful and purposeful gesturing with the hands, practice this exercise. Count either to five or to seven as you execute the approach, the stroke, and the return.