One of the best scenes from an otherwise mediocre movie was when Will Farrell's character in "Talladega Nights" couldn't figure out what to do with his hands while he was speaking in front of a large crowd. While he spoke, his arms slowly kept rising next to him, as if possessed by their own will. The humor stems from the commonality of this issue. All presenters have wondered at one time or another, "What on earth do I do with my hands?" The uncertainty often leads to awkward, distracting, or otherwise unappealing movements while speaking.
When I worked with public speaking students, we always dedicated one class to learning specific strategies for overcoming common problematic movements while presenting. Each strategy is designed to train your brain to associate specific movements with successful presenting. Today I'm going to share some of the best tips and tricks my students used to overcome what we dubbed "Ricky Bobby hands."
Problem: Your arms and hands move around too wildly during speech, you overuse hand-gestures, or inadvertently slap your legs while presenting.
While practicing your speech, hold a heavy thing in each hand. Soup cans work well, as do 3-5 lb weights. The extra weight requires your brain to carefully consider each movement, and whether it's necessary. And if you slap your legs a lot while presenting, well it will only take one time doing that while holding a soup can to break the habit! The truth is, there are times during a presentation when it's okay to simply keep your arms calmly at your side, and to use your hands mainly to emphasize a key point, shift in topic, or change in emotion.