Plan your speech gestures like an Imagineer

As my family watched shows at Disney World last week, I noticed that today’s robots are less robotic and have more natural gestures than some human presenters.

Disney’s Imagineers carefully plan each move made by the audio-animatronics to bring historic characters to life. The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom has figures of every U.S. president. Abraham Lincoln’s figure delivers the Gettysburg address, and both George Washington and Barack Obama give speeches during the show. At The American Adventure in Epcot, several historic figures are brought to life in a show narrated by figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.

While no one would mistake the audio-animatronics for real people, their gestures play an important role in creating the illusion. The figures turn from one section of the audience to another, and they move their hands and arms as they make key points or conclude comments.

If you don’t naturally gesture when you speak, follow the Disney example and carefully plot your movements. Review your remarks and decide when you want to move from one section of the audience to another, when to raise your hand to emphasize a point, when to make a sweeping motion for a transition and when to bring your arms close to your body as you complete a section of your remarks. As you rehearse, your movements will become smoother and more natural. Videotape your rehearsal to see whether your movements are having the effect you want or whether you should revise them.

It takes only a few gestures to turn a presenter from a stiff robot into someone whose body language enhances the message.

Share your tips for gesturing while you speak.

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