female presenter, male audience

Some of us can’t help talking with our hands. For many people, myself included, not having the use of their hands while speaking takes away from their ability to freely express the kinetic energy that fuels a vocal performance.

For instance, prolific promo voice talent, George DelHoyo, is unable to sit still in the studio. You may recognize DelHoyo’s voice as the voice of Glee and American Idol.

In an interview on The Today Show (2007), DelHoyo was quoted as saying, “I always say it’s not my voice I worry about, it’s my arms, because without my arms, I can’t speak any of it.”

In a separate interview with WEBN Boston in 2010, DelHoyo describes his highly animated recording style as being like a windmill or conducting an orchestra. Skip to the 2-minute mark to hear DelHoyo talk about his creative process.

Does the same ring true for you?

Even if you don’t rely on your hands to speak, getting comfortable using them can benefit you.

Here are three ways using your hands (or arms) when you speak can make a difference in your life.

 

1 – Express Yourself More Engagingly

Are you intense, or just tense?

Imagine that your entire body is your instrument. That means that from your head to your toes, you’re all in. The way you speak or perform can be either helped or hindered by your body.

When you use your hands, you have an opportunity to release physical tension that creeps into the vocal apparatus and your body as a whole. When tension goes away, amazing things begin happening to your voice making it easier to communicate.

As a singer by training, my experience confirms that the concept of your body ‘being your instrument,’ is transferrable to voice acting, public speaking, presenting, athletics — and whatever it is that you do!

Freeing your hands, (or body if you have the space to move about), helps you become more expressive vocally. The elasticity of a warmed up, tension-free voice, makes a huge difference.

Thanks to fluid movement, you’ll likely have better access to your breath, too. Being able to control your voice and how it sounds adds energy and another dimension to your performance.

 

2 – Talking With Your Hands Saves Your Voice (No, Really!)

Do you have to proofread copy, review long documents or practice lines?

More often than not, reading the text aloud helps you to catch errors or omissions, however all of that vocalization can be taxing on your voice, especially if you are trying to preserve it.

Something I find useful, is going through the copy in my head but using my hands to help create the same drama, emphasis, or enthusiasm that my voice would normally carry on its own. So next time you have to take on one of these tasks, instead of running out of steam vocally, see if you can hear your voice inside your head, and just like George DelHoyo, orchestrate the nuance of what you are reading by using your arms and hands.

In other posts, I mention how imagining the voice of someone else is a good solution for getting through longer, more tedious texts. Pick your celebrity of choice, cast them in the role of narrator and run with it.

3 – Making a Statement

Your hands can be wild and free, or clenched and disabling. That said, there is a happy middle ground.

Using your hands too much can detract from the important points you are trying to make.

Think of it like playing music. If everything you play is Forte (loud) on a musical score, there would be nowhere to go, dynamically. Everything comes across as loud.

Similarly, when we use our hands too much, the gesticulating can become just like volume on a speaker that’s turned up all the way. There’s no variation. It’s hard to highlight or punctuate points of interest when everything appears to be given the same weight or importance.

Minimal, yet powerful gestures are best used strategically. If you find that the use of your hands is distracting or taking away from your message, it might be time to tone down the number of gestures that you use. If you’re like me, it’s possibly the scale of the gestures. There are times when it is fine to be a windmill and there are times when it is not. Public speaking is one such venue where being selective with gestures is more effective, particularly in a business setting.

How Are You Using Your Hands When You Speak?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Stephanie

2 COMMENTS

  1. As a movement specialist and public speaking coach, I love these points. Especially that speaking is a whole body experience and that our gestures are part of the expression. I can tend to over gesture, so I appreciate your caution to find the middle ground.

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It’s great to hear from someone else in the field.

      Take care,
      Stephanie

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