Create Positive Gestures

Use of your body

Watch What You Do With Your Hands

Mistake #1: Use No Positive Gestures

cartoon about non-verbal communication

When I was a teenager, the church of which I was a member got a new pastor. Because I was actively involved in ministry in the church, he invited me, along with a few other teens, to meet him in his office and report on a recent mission trip. I thought of him again as I approached this post on how to create positive gestures to enhance your preaching. You see, in that meeting, he explained his theory of preaching. First of all, he used no illustrations in his message. Why? Because people would be more likely to remember the illustration, and not the Word. And secondly, he used no gestures, less that detract from the “pure preaching of the Word”. So, when he preached, he stood behind a pulpit, with a very large Bible in his two hands, and didn’t move.

I don’t remember a single one of his sermons, and he was my pastor for almost ten years!

I am convinced, after studying preachers and preaching for many years, that what we do with our body as we preach is part and parcel of the definition that I gave to preaching in a post many weeks ago: truth conveyed through personality.

One of the things not to do is what this preacher did. Rather, work to create positive gestures, especially with your hands and arms, and use them to express visually what you are saying verbally.

Mistake #2: Use Your Hands Too Much In Gesturing

Another thing not to do is to use your hands too much. This, too, will detract from your presentation, and people will get uncomfortable trying to link what they see with what you say.

Here’s an example. In the United States the election cycle is heating up, with many people declaring that they want to be President. One person who made the announcement recently that he is running for office is Beto O’Rourke. The clip below shows his announcement.

Beto O’Rourke Announces Presidential Run

Now, just for fun, watch how a comedian in the Unites States made fun of his announcement, especially the overuse of his gestures.

Jimmy Fallon’s Take on Beto O’Rourke’s Announcement

I showed this to you in these clips because speech experts (and many others) commented on how his gestures distracted from his message. When you are thinking about creating positive gestures for your presentation, think about what you do with your hands.

Guidelines for Creating Positive Gestures

Definition of a gesture

You can create positive gestures that will invite people into the thoughts that are being verbally presented. For some people this is a natural process; they just do it. For others, this can be a challenge. So, what are some guidelines for the person who wants to create positive gestures? Here are a few that might help you.

It is a great challenge, to write about something that is extremely visual, and so, I want to use this picture to guide the discussion.

Lean toward

Occasionally, lean toward your audience. When you do that, they will feel that you are “coming close”. Think about those times when someone was paying attention to you, and leaned toward you in the process. It made you feel good, didn’t it, that they were “with you”?

Open Arms

Who you open up your arms to someone as you talk with them privately, it invites them into your “personal space”. The same thing is true if you are speaking to a group. They will enter into your thought as you open your arms to them.

Implore them

When you re asking people to take the Word that you are speaking seriously, let your gesture express that along with your words.

Watch Others

Maybe the best guide is simply to ask you to watch how other speakers express themselves through their gestures.

Learn about non-verbal communication

There are many places on the web that teach about body language. Here’s one that gives some good clues about reading body language in others, and some about how to use it in your own communication.

And here’s a video that explains some ways to practice appropriate body language.

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