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4.4: Speaking Strategies - General Speaking Skills, Part IV

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    In Unit 1, you learned about “Gestures for Focus.” These are simple movements with your hands and arms that help the audience know what information (on the board, PowerPoint, etc.) you’re talking about by drawing attention to that area.

    In this unit, we’ll learn to use gestures for another important reason: “Gestures for Expression.” These physical expressions help the audience understand key points you are talking about in your speech or presentation. Here are a few Gestures for Expression you can use in your speech or presentation, but remember that these gestures could also be used when you’re engaged in a regular conversation with a friend, teacher or coworker!

    Use “Gestures for Expression” when you want to emphasize:

    Numbers: This is the simplest gesture that accompanies words. When you say “one,” hold up one finger; when you say “two,” hold up two fingers. Be mindful of cultural differences, though! Many cultures have different ways of counting, so make sure you are counting the usual way people do in the area you’re currently in. Gesturing while speaking numbers puts the emphasis on the number, and can help your audience keep track of the points you’re making. We’ll practice this soon.

    Sizes (including distances): Again, this is a simple gesture, but is incredibly important when stressing the size of something. Words like small, short, long, tall, and thick are good words to use when describing people or things, but showing the size with your hands can help your audience picture in their minds exactly what you’re trying to express. If you say, “He’s short,” your listener will wonder just how short the person is; but if you say this while showing with your hand how short the person is, it will give your listener the perfect “picture” in their mind of his height.

    Importance: Sometimes you really need to emphasize a word or point in order to give your audience a strong impression. The easiest and most natural way to do this is making your voice a little stronger when you say the word, but at the same time striking one of your hands with the other hand. First, place your left (or right) hand in front of you with your palm up (as if you are going to receive change from a cashier). Next, make a fist with your right (or left) hand, and hit the palm of your left hand while you speak the word you’re trying to stress. An alternative to a fist would be a “karate chop” strike! Both are effective ways to show your audience that this word is important, and they should remember it.

    Speaking Activity

    Stand up and face a partner. Before you speak, check each other’s posture. Next, repeat the following sentences while practicing the gestures above:

    “Good morning. My name is ___________________________________________________________.

    I’m a student at _________________________________________________________________________.

    My major is _____________________________________________________________________________.

    I chose this major for two reasons” (hold two fingers up). “First, there are many students in this department” (make a gesture to show something is big).

    “Second, there is a need for more _____________________________________________________” (strike your palm with your fist as you say “need”).

    Make sure you practice this exercise 3-4 times with your partner! It is very important that you time the words with the gestures so they happen at the same time.

    This page titled 4.4: Speaking Strategies - General Speaking Skills, Part IV is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel Velasco.

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