Gestures Add Meaning

Written by Ben R.

Speech time at Toastmasters is usually 5-7 minutes so it can make the time more meaningful to use gestures to express some of the content or tone of the speech.

body language and gestures This can be done to deliver specific meaning without using words at all—a fist up in the air, or the praying position—or to enhance the meaning—wide open arms when speaking about a large fish.

In humorous situations, speakers can make discordant gestures against words—speaking of walking slowly while gesturing a running motion.

Most speakers tend to emphasize eye contact and facial expressions during speech delivery. Non-facial gestures or body gestures are a great communication tool and there are many types and ranges of them. Here are some of the techniques I prefer to use as well as some I am thinking of trying in the future.

  • Subtle head movements— moving left to right, tilting, or nodding.
  • Use of the arms for repetition of action such as rolling, waveing, or oscillating.
  • A hand shape—fist or separated fingers.

Unconventional movements can be effective in making some specific points. Consider an unusual motion such as turning your back to the audience, squatting, picking something up from the floor, or mimicking the specific motion of an animal or the state/orbit of an object.

Gestures can also vary in speed and degree.


  1. One way to try out gestures is in front of a mirror or window reflection to see how it looks and feels. It may trigger something new in your mind.
  2. I like taking a video of mine and enjoying the difference in my perception when I am speaking or gesturing vs. when I actually watch the video as an audience. You might enjoy that, too.

Follow your excitement for your next speech-making and I look forward to your next performance.