Chapter 5. Gestures That Teach

People love to learn from other people. As with gestures of location, gestures that teach also use mime concepts. These nonverbal movement sequences tell a story or show step-by-step directions and are most often used to answer questions or problems of what, how, how much, and where. Gestures that teach are not about how perfect your representation is. They are about how comfortable most people are with visual learning. Attention goes where it is directed. The key to successful teaching gestures is the ability to keep listeners' eyes where you want them. If you are not looking at what you want them to look at, they will not be looking there either.

Gestures that teach simplify your message and make the speaker focus on specifics. Consistent and logical motions are an essential component of facilitating learning and memory by specifically directing the listener's eyes. There are two key skills with gestures that teach:

  1. You must look where you want the audience to look. Listeners follow your eyes before they follow gestures. The listeners' eyes will follow your hand only if your eyes follow your hand. Directed listener eye contact must work in unison with the hand gestures. This is easily achieved by watching your own thumb as you make the gesture.

  2. There must be a logical reason for the gestures. For example, in a step-by-step series of gestures to explain working with a box, each gesture looks like you are holding a box that has a consistent size and weight. ...

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