Only seven percent of your communication impact comes from what you actually say, while 93 percent comes from how you look and sound. As a result, a speaker needs to have dynamic delivery skills. I use the acronym S.P.E.A.K.E.R. to capture the seven key delivery skills a speaker should master.
Smile Posture Eye Communication Appearance Kinesics Expressive Vocals Resting Places for Your Hands This article deals with Resting Places. If you’re using purposeful gestures when you speak – which you should! – then by definition, you’re not gesturing all the time. Then what do you do with your hands? If you keep things out of your hands so you’re not tempted to play with them and be distracting, then what do you do with your hands when you can’t hold on to anything for security? Your hands convey a lot about how comfortable and confident you appear. How you hold them when they’re “at rest” can be called resting places.
Resting Places to Avoid Before I describe the most powerful and confident resting places you can use, let’s look at those that are less effective. The following resting places are either closed or defensive or arrogant or pained-looking – not the kind of message you want to send your audience.
1. Hands in the pockets.
2. Crossed arms.
3. Hands on the hips.
4. The arm clutch.
5. The fig leaf. This is when your hands are loosely clasped together in front of the groin area. While the fig leaf is a respectful posture, it is also deferential: it defers power away from you. As a speaker, you don’t want to defer that power. You want to own it and project it. So the fig leaf is not a good choice to achieve that.
Effective Resting Places If you want to appear confident and comfortable when you’re making a presentation, the following positions make the most effective home bases.
1. Arms at your side. Letting your arms hang down at your sides can be appropriate, but if you feel awkward or uncomfortable doing it, then it’s a good bet that’s how you’ll look. So try it and see. If it feels comfortable on you, it’ll undoubtedly look that way.
2. Parade rest. This is where you clasp your hands behind your back. This is a powerful posture. It pulls your chin out, pulls your shoulders back and lifts your rib cage. However, a caveat: Because it looks good and is comfortable, the tendency is to lock into it and never come out of it. There goes your kinesics, your purposeful movement. So my recommendation is to save parade rest for when you’re not talking. During the Q&A session, parade rest makes a great listening pose.
3. Arms up. This position calls for you to bend your elbows at a right angle and place your hands loosely together in front of your solar plexus. The 90-degree angle is key, because if it’s any wider, it lowers your hands and becomes a fig leaf. If it’s any tighter, it raises your hands, which can look like you’re praying, not the confident look you want. What’s key about how your hands come together in this position is that they’re relaxed, not tense. Examples: interlace your fingers, cup one hand around the other, steeple your fingertips together, place one hand in the other. By holding your arms up at that right angle, you’re exerting energy. But by bringing your hands together in a relaxed – not tense – manner, you appear confident and at ease.
4. One-arm up. Picture the last “arms up” home base and now drop one arm to your side while keeping the other at that 90-degree position. The arm that’s up should have the hand loosely closed. If you’ve ever stood around at a cocktail party holding a drink in one of your hands, it’s the same kind of positioning. For a subtle variation of this, you could place your dropped hand in your pocket. Just like with both arms up, the one-arm up balances energy and power with ease and relaxation, a powerful combination for a speaker to project.
If you can combine relaxed, open positions with energy, you will cement your look of a poised and confident speaker.