What to Do With Your Arms While Speaking

WRITTEN August 9, 2017 Author: Jen Glantz

A large part of public speaking has to do with how you use your body while you present your material. It’s a known statistic that 60-90% of how we communicate is non-verbal. Preparations for any presentation have to start with practicing perfect posture and constant eye contact, but you question:

“What do I do with my arms?”


Crossing your arms can make you seem impatient or closed. Swinging them at your sides can be distracting and show that you are fearful. Putting them in your pockets can come off as too casual.

So again, you ask:

“What do I do with my arms while speaking?”


Here are three recommend things to do with your arms while speaking:

1. Use Gestures for Emphasis

Talk with your hands and you will add power to what you are saying. Gesture with your hands when it matches your content as a way of signifying importance, comparisons, number counts, and drama.


2. Show Your Palms

Keep your arms at your side and show your palms.

In the TEDx Talk, Body Language: The Power Is in the Palm of Your Hands, Alan Pease, says that using open palms facing outward to your audience can increase the possibility that they will follow your lead.


3. Demonstrate Using A Prop

Show how to work an item with your hands. If the item is large, place it on a table or podium and point to features or areas of the item, one at a time. For presentation slides, enthusiastically point to areas of diagrams, maps or graphs that you are speaking about in that moment.


Use your body to express meaning beyond your words during your presentation and your audience will have a more engaging experience. When practicing, take note of how you use your hands. This will help you up your “body-language game” during your presentation.


This information is discussed in our Public Speaking curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.


Photo Courtesy of Rolf Anders Storset.



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