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  • Maciej Makula


Body language when speaking in public or in front of the camera reveals the speaker's secrets. However, this statement should not be exaggerated. Yet, body posture can betray emotions, especially stress, fear of judgement by others, lack of concentration, or fear of public speaking. Certain gestures can confuse the listener and create invisible barriers.

It is the hands that convey most of the information to the audience. They are like a whiteboard on which the messages the recipient reads are clearly written. That is why awareness of one’s gestures and proper training help eliminate basic gestural errors during public speaking.

How should I use my hands during a speech? The golden rule is: if you cannot see my hands, you cannot see my speech. Furthermore, it is worth remembering that there are so-called 'inappropriate gestures' (gestures to be avoided) which are interpreted negatively in most cultures. Many people do not realise how these inappropriate gestures can negatively influence the audience.

Crossed arms are one of the most common 'inappropriate gestures': a person with this posture is quickly judged by listeners as closed, unwilling to have a conversation, and generally withdrawn. Another common gesture is hiding one's hands behind one's back, which also appears unnatural and is perceived as a negative posture.

According to the experts, the most undesirable gesture is to keep one's hands or one hand in one's pocket. In many cultures, this is seen as disrespectful, indifferent, and even demeaning to the recipient. Experience shows that this gesture is very difficult to eliminate. It is worth remembering that when we speak in public, we put our keys, phone, or handkerchief in our pockets but not our hands.

The index finger gesture, which implies orders, commands, and absolute submission, must be avoided. Crossed legs and touching one's face are not welcome either. Turning one's back to the interlocutor when speaking is also an inappropriate posture. On the other hand, when sitting at the table, it is advisable to keep your hands on the table, never under the table.

These 'inappropriate gestures' create an invisible barrier between the speaker and the recipient. The audience can perceive that something is wrong and often does not focus on the content of the speech but on this invisible boundary that partially blocks the message. They should, therefore, remember to use open gestures during public speaking to facilitate correct communication.

For clarity and to learn more about the usage of body language, we invite you to the Communication Conference to be held from 1 to 7 August 2024, in Rome. 

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