Have you seen presenters and performers with these? It’s not their fault. They tried hard, and studied what coaches most often say about gesture.
They learned they absolutely MUST use hand and arm gestures. They learned they should stay inside the shoulder-to-waist box. They made sure they didn’t point. They made notes in their text about where to gesture. They learned their palms should be face up. They avoided mime, too much repetition, pumping, pocketing, crossing, hip-holding, behind-the-backing, and a ton of other no-no’s. They learned plenty.
And yet they still look like a clock-work Lincoln in the Hall of Presidents.
They have Puppethands.
Like the marionettes from Thunderbirds Are Go, like C3PO, like Barbie. Puppethands attract attention because they fail to move in natural coordination with head/neck movement, their articulation is stiff, and their dynamics don’t really make perfect sense with the timing and emotion of the voice.
Anyone can get them. Not just puppets.
So do these unlucky performers need to learn even more precise rules? Should they practice more to make it look realistic?
Nerp. “Looking realistic” just aint enough. The human brain currently assesses movement with a higher level of sophistication than we can describe it. So no matter how many rules you follow, movement tells the truth.
Check out these clips of video games and androids. These are so freakin’ cool. And the stillshots look amazing, right? It’s the movement that tells us that what we’re looking at is a fake. Lifelike, yes. But we can do better than “lifelike”.
Beyond the movement issue, we recognize fakey gestures because outside-in coaching just doesn’t work as well as inside out.
That means stop trying to “seem” more this, or “look” more that, or “come across as” something. It’s pointless.
But I seem nervous!
– Because you are.
But I don’t want to seem nervous!
– Why not?
… and here’s the fork in the road. Either the answer is “because it will make me look stupid,” or the answer is “because this message needs to get to this audience.”
Which road do you want to travel down?
The coaching that goes down the Not Looking Stupid road focuses on externals about the speaker. And since they don’t really work, the road eventually dead ends.
The road called Audience Gets Message is more a verb than a noun. It’s movement, and it requires us to focus more on the message and the audience than on ourselves. The Audience Gets Message road leads forward to the goal and well beyond it in all directions. It allows for innovation, rule-breaking, weirdness, and non-standard but effective new kinds of communication.
But if I look stupid, they won’t hear my message!
– Are you sure about that?
Usually, when we are outside-in oriented, we don’t actually pay attention to the audience, not really. So, ask who IS this audience, and what do they think is stupid? Tell me about their specific context, their needs, challenges, strengths, and expectations.
But how do you fix puppethands?
Start by not treating yourself like a marionette with a superego hanging out above your body. Instead, get right down inside your body. And now take a look at this audience, right now.
I know, it’s MUCH more frightening.
More on that in posts to come.