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GESTURE & SPEAK like you OWN the room – MASTERclass

 In Body language, Facial expression, Gesturing, Luminary, News, Owning space, The Winning Voice, Voice

Matthew Walker’s TED presentation –  Sleep is your superpower  – is a masterclass in gesturing and speaking. In ‘owning’ the physical space.

Below is my analysis of Walker’s non-verbal communication at various time points in the presentation:

Start > 2:00 minute point

– If you imagine a semi-circular space in front and at the sides of Walker’s body, you’ll observe him making measured, definite gestures and hand movements within that metaphorical space.

– Note how he extends his arms to his left when saying ‘Good’ and to the opposite of his body when saying ‘Bad’.

– Walker moves his arms and hands paired with the points he is making. His legs are well positioned at hip-width, and quiet and still.

– When he relays the metaphor of a sponge, his hand gestures mimic wringing a wet sponge..

2:00 > 6:00 minute segment

– the words ‘inside’ paired with an extended gesture in front of his body.

‘List’ paired with flicking his fingers, mimicking sifting through a list.

– ‘Act like a transfer mechanism’ paired with a sweeping ‘transfer’ gesture across his body.

– Walker uses a ‘thumb to index finger’ gesture to emphasise important points.

6:00 > 17:00 minute segment

‘Interlocking’ paired with threading of his fingers.

‘20% increase and 20% decrease’ with corresponding an upward arm gesture with a pointed finger, and with a downward gesture.

‘The entire night’ paired with the wide spreading of arms.

‘Turn off the tap’ while mimicking tap turning.

‘Spelling out’ with his fingers metaphorically spelling.

Other overall characteristics that make Walker a powerful presenter were:

  • That never rushes. He speaks in ‘measures’.
  • His facial expressions. He is an example of ‘perceived genuine enthusiasm sells’.
  • An unvarnished presentation of himself. During the post presentation interview, he had the same delivery as during the presentation.

My improvement feedback for Walker is to:

– ‘Calm the arm’. That is, to allow one of his arms to hang calmly at the side of his body.

– to have a more varied cadence when speaking. That is, be more of an ‘unpredictable wind’ with his voice. Here is my post explaining the ‘unpredictable wind’ metaphor.


Own the Conversation

In the next seven days do this Expert modelling process that I use in my  Executive communication coaching.

1. Choose a 20 second section of the Walker’s clip that resonates with you.

2. Watch the section and memorise it verbatim.  Film your practice delivery of the section: the words, and your imitation of Walker’s cadence, body language and voice delivery.

3. Repetitively deliver and playback/watch your performance (the words, voice cadence, body language) and compare it to Walker’s delivery.

4. Continue Step #3 until you can perform it at a high level, while putting your individual mark on it.

5. In safe interactions, practice ‘channelling’ the body language, cadence and voice you’ve practiced (obviously with different words). Reflect on its impact.



p.s. In this image, at a recent budget estimates hearing, New South Wales Minister of Sport John Sidoti, displays a quintessential example of ‘smugness’

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