Tag Archives: public speaking

Hand Gestures and Distractions

One thing I tend to do a lot is two-handed gestures when giving a talk, speech, or presentation. I somehow don’t know what to do with my hands, so I claspe them together, or wave them around, etc. But from watching other speakers – one handed gestures seem to be not only less distracting, but more effective. It is so much more obvious that you are making a point. I don’t know why this is, but perhaps ‘less is more.’

Simpler is Better. Only one hand is necessary, and more likely to get your audience to focus on your message. There’s a reason why pedestrian stop lights only have one hand to tell you now to walk.

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Gorillas and Public Speaking

“There is a reason that the number one fear reported by most people is public speaking.” Seth Godin, Linchpin

About two years ago, my husband and I visited the gorilla exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo. It was sort of inside a covered cave, and there was big glass window that separated humans from the gorillas. Most of the gorillas were hiding, but one was walking towards the window. I said, “He’s coming – let’s say hi to the gorilla!” I got down on my hands and knees, and flexed my arms and muscles like a gorilla would do, to sort of play with the gorilla. I looked right into his eyes, which were the sweetest little eyes, and then BAM! Before I knew it, he had taken his big fist, and pounded it against the window, right at my face!

In his new book, Linchpin, Seth Godin uses this gorilla analogy to illustrate why humans are so freaked out by public speaking. He illustrates how eye contact is threatening to gorillas, and has lead to attacks. Then he goes on to explain that:

“Eye contact all by itself is enough to throw your lizard brain into a tizzy. Imagine how scary it must be to set out to do something that will get you noticed or perhaps even criticized. There is a reason that the number one fear reported by most people is public speaking.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin

Gorillas may never overcome their fear of eye contact. But I think humans can.