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TED TALKS: Hand Gestures

So far in our TED Talk series, we’ve talked stage presence and visual aids. But there’s one more very important element you should consider – hand gestures.

It seems we never think about our hands and how we move them, until we’re on stage with an audience to entertain.

What you do with your hands depends on the stage setup, so here are 3 easy-to-follow “if/then” guidelines for your next TED Talk-style presentation:

#1 — If you’re given a handheld or lavalier mic…

…use hand gestures. This situation gives you the most freedom, so take advantage. And when you’re not gesturing, keep your hands at your sides.

#2 — If you’re standing behind a podium…

…don’t white knuckle the podium. There is a tendency to grasp the sides of the podium simply because it’s in front of you. Even if you’re behind a podium, you can use hand gestures. Though the audience won’t see most of them, the movement adds energy to your presentation.

#3 — If you’re someone who doesn’t gesture with their hands…

…your TED Talk-style presentation is not the time to start. We want you to be authentic on stage, which means you can’t incorporate new behaviors just because you think it’s the right thing to do. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t use hand gestures, keep your hands at your sides. DO NOT awkwardly grasp your hands in front of or behind you.

Before we sign-off, let’s take a minute to consider appropriate hand gestures for the stage and screen. Our recommendations are simple:

  • Don’t point.
  • Don’t chop.
  • Don’t illustrate.

You want your hand gestures to give your presentation energy and not detract from your message. Pointing separates you from the audience and seems condescending; chopping is harsh and uninviting; illustrating your point with your hands is a distraction.

Instead, think small, circular movement at waist-level. Doing so invites the audience to be part of your presentation.

TED TALKS: Stage Presence

The Ted Talk format is becoming increasingly popular. We’ve worked with quite a few clients recently who find themselves anticipating a Ted Talk-style presentation, but no real understanding of what that means beyond the bright lights and imposing stage featured in YouTube clips.

In order to demystify the process and encourage you to present your best selves on stage, we’re going to offer a tip a week over the next few weeks. Let’s start with stage presence.

#1 — Use the stage.

If the stage is properly lit, and the AV team hands you a wireless mic, then you’re expected to use the stage. This is great news, because you’ll be better able to engage the audience. The podium creates a barrier, so view a podium-less stage as more casual and therefore friendlier to you and the audience.

#2 — Don’t wander aimlessly.

Be purposeful in your movement – pace slowly to one end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. Then pace slowly to the other end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. If you really want to prove to the audience that you know what you’re doing, time your stopping point with a critical point in your remarks.

#3 — Don’t turn your back to the audience.

If you turn your back to the audience, you cut off communication. Always face forward, even if there are screens behind you. The venue should provide confidence monitors at your feet so you know what the audience sees on the screens behind you, which means you have no reason to turn around.

Secrets for Q&A Success

Speaking in front of a live audience can be terrifying. Not only do you have to prepare and present talking points to keep the people engaged, but you will likely have to answer questions at the end.

Sometimes Q&A provides insightful commentary and allows you to talk more in-depth about an issue; other times, you field a filibuster and/or hostile questions you’d rather not answer.

It’s a risky situation, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and the audience.

Here’s what we suggest:

Step #1: Set ground rules. You might think this is an unnecessary and condescending step, because who doesn’t know how to handle themselves during Q&A?? Turns out, a lot of people.

Before you take the first question, explain that you will only respond to questions (NOT comments), and the questions need to be brief to allow as many people as possible to participate.

Step #2: Don’t follow Justin Trudeau’s lead.

We get it, Q&A is unscripted and less formal. Anything can happen! But a joke or petty correction that leaves you apologizing days later means it was better left unsaid.

Even if you disagree with the premise of the question, or the words/phrases used, don’t insult the asker. Kindly reframe the question, and then block and bridge to the response you want to give.

Now, go rock that Q&A.

TUESDAY TIP: Don’t be like Phil Davison…

It’s one of our favorite political campaign speeches EVER. Not because it’s great, but because it’s so incredibly awful.

So while we suffer through the last two weeks of a few ho-hum campaigns (ahem, VA), we thought we’d remember more exciting times. Like the times of Phil Davison…

Phil Davison, a Republican running for Stark County Treasurer in Ohio, delivered this impassioned speech before a vote for nomination to the office. What starts out as a run-of-the-mill candidacy speech, quickly escalates to full out screaming. Perhaps even more entertaining than the sudden escalation of emotion and volume are the times his outbursts seem uncontrollable.

“AND A MASTER’S DEGREE IN COMMUNICATION.”

“I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE FOR MY TONE TONIGHT.”

“THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR.”

While Phil offers us endless entertainment, there’s a fairly obvious lesson to be learned about emotion and volume when speaking in public or in your media interviews. Emotion is great. It connects you to your audience, makes you seem more approachable, and keeps people tuned in. However, when you turn your performance switch “on,” make sure slow and steady wins the race. Avoid the zero to 60 approach, unless you want to end up on CNN or the Washington Post’s “best political rants of all time” list.

Need more messaging help and/or media polishing? Become your best self and contact us today.