I recently came across this blog called “Terrible Public Speaking Tips.” The title made me chuckle, but I agree with most of the content. Many of these “terrible tips” apply to lawyers speaking in the courtroom, boardroom, or most anywhere.

We’ve written before about avoiding attempts at humor. We are big proponents of “less is more” when it comes to PowerPoint slides (see pages 91-95 in The Articulate Attorney). And we think of notes as the speaker’s own big, legible, and simple visual aid.  

But there is one other piece of terrible advice that we would add to this list – in fact, we’d make it #1 on the list: Do not gesture. In our teaching and coaching, we frequently encounter gesture deniers – lawyers who have been told to keep their hands at their sides, or to grip the lectern to stifle gestures. This is truly bad advice that can affect your delivery and persuasiveness. Natural gestures are instinctive and innate. Science debunks the false claim that they can be distracting to listeners. In fact, many, many studies support the notion that gestures not only help the speaker find the words they want to say, but they also help listeners understand what is being said.

gesturing helps listeners understand

Gesturing helps listeners understand.

Read more about The Surprising Science of Natural Gestures and check out this post to learn more about combating your own gesture denial. Above all, don’t be fooled the next time another lawyer gives you terrible advice about your public speaking. Distract them by asking about legal practice. No lawyer practices in “public speaking.”