Mannerisms, the Wasted Gesture of Public Speaking

Published: 01st May 2008
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This is the third of three articles on using gestures for public speaking. This deals with mannerisms. The first dealt with appropriate gestures and the second inappropriate gestures.

When speaking in front of an audience, as seasoning enhance a meal, gestures enhance your talk.

What happens if you inadvertently add too much seasoning or sauce? Maybe the lid fell off the salt shaker or the cap off the bottle. Just as it is impossible to put the salt back, it is impossible to undo the damage even though you may try to salvage the meal. Too many gestures of the wrong kind can have the same effect.

Gestures fall into three categories that need to be observed by public speakers.

Appropriate Gestures

Inappropriate Gestures


This article focuses on mannerisms. They are in effect wasted gestures.

A mannerism is like a body language stutter. It is making the same motion over and over again. They could be described as repeating the same style and form of public speaking gesture or motion.

Who will ever forget one of the great speakers of our time who constantly used the push the thumbtack into the TelePrompTer gesture. It was the salvaged index finger wagging or pointing that a former Governor that was later held down with the thumb.

How can some get away with using them. In a word, charisma. If you don't have it, you can not get away with using them.

Anytime a gesture has become repetitive, making the same motion repeatedly, it has become a mannerism. Anyone can fall victim to their strangle hold.

Why be cautious of too many gestures? Over use can easily turn them into a mannerism.

There are numerous types of mannerisms.

They can include...

Gripping, leaning, or massaging the leading edge of the lectern

Tapping your finger (you won't even know your doing it)

Biting your lip

Playing with or adjusting hair and clothing

How do you overcome them? First become aware of using them. You can do this by using a public speaking coach. Another way would be to get someone to video tape your speech.

Next learn how to talk with your hands and body. How big, how small, where, can all be described with our hands. Even time can be turned into something linear with the use of our hands.

Start using gestures. Watch actors on TV. Imitate their actions. Practice their moves.

It is a learned process. When it comes from your heart and resonates from your soul it will become a natural part of your speech. With practice and work, you can overcome mannerisms.

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