Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Closed Hand Pointing Gesture

What's Gestures Got to Do With it? 

I confess, I hate watching politics on TV! I know as a communication coach, one of the things I should be doing is watching all these politicians and critiquing what I see so all can learn from it. Unfortunately, watching most speeches, even from people I support, makes my skin crawl. Mostly because they speak at the people rather than to the people. They present a speech rather than engage an audience. However, I did watch Michelle's speech last night (which was Pitch PERFECT!!!) and I did see parts of Ann Romney speech last week and something very interesting jumped out at me - the stark contrast in their use of gestures and vocal tone.  Whereas Michelle used a warm, lower pitched compassionate tone, Ann used the higher pitch, shriller scolding tone.

Finger Pointing Gesture

And as you can see from these photos, where Michelle used softer, subtler less aggressive pointing gestures, Ann's finger seemed to be in a continual one finger school marm point. 

Warm, heart-centered  Personal Gesture

Where Michelle used arm gestures that originated, touched or emanated from her heart,
Broad, generalized, look-at-me gesture

Ann relied on the politician's ubiquitous "I'm open and here for you" gesture. However, her hands and arms could actually communicate a "stop and keep your distance" message.

Okay grant it, I'm an Obama supporter but I also call it like I see it. Three years ago, I wrote a blog post on how I wish Barack would hire me to coach him out of his predictable speech pattern. (#DNC,  if you're reading this, he's still doing it and I'm still ready, willing and available!!!) 

Which of these ladies was more effective? 
Just like everything in politics, it depends on who you talk to. And it also depends on what the speaker wants to make you feel. If you want your listeners to feel cared about and cared for and for them to feel that you are sincere, warm and inclusive, you will use a vocal tone and gestures like Michelle. If you want people to feel led and in competent hands and for them to feel that you are in control and a little peeved, then you would use gestures and a vocal tone like Ann's. 

This is not a judgement. There is a time and a place for both of these communication styles. I just know which one I feel better listening to and which one moves me more towards positive action. 

I write a lot about gestures  and vocal tone in my soon to be released book on presentation skills -  Standing Ovation Presentations, (Motivational Press, 2012) so please join my mailing list so you can be the first to order your copy!


  1. I have my students analyzing Michelle's speech but I never thought about doing a comparison! Very observant of you. Republicans are hard for me to watch. (Its actually Maria, not Mory saying this.)

  2. Thanks Susan! Glad you liked it. Feel free to share.

  3. gesture is one the best way to describe every character.

    psychotherapy new york


Thanks so much for your comment!!