Steve Lowell

Speaking With Gestures

let your hands goThere are different physical levels of gesturing, each with their own meaning.

What should you do with those awkward appendages when you have to speak in public? I’m referring, of course, to your hands. There’s so much that can be said about this topic that Mark Bowden has written an entire book about it! (See his book, Winning Body Language.) I used to get very frustrated when I was working with a specific training company, because they kept trying to get me to keep my hands down by my sides when I spoke. It was never comfortable for me to hang my hands down by my sides and to keep them there. Later, when I began offering my own training programs, I’d tell my students to let their hands go wherever they felt they needed to go naturally. It wasn’t until I read Bowden’s book that it all made sense! Your hands are not meant to dangle down by your sides unless you’re in motion. Here are a few tips taken from Bowden’s book that might help you.

There are different physical levels of gesturing, each with their own meaning. Two very powerful levels are what Bowden refers to as the TruthPlane and the PassionPlane. The TruthPlane is the horizontal plane at the level of the navel. Gesturing with your hands at this level offers the audience a message that you are here to give, rather than to take away.… Continue reading

Take Some Quiet Time


In the summer of 2004, I had the good fortune of spending a weekend with John Assaraf, author of, “The Street Kid’s Guide to Having it All,” and, “The Answer.” John is also a teacher, based on his worldwide book phenomenon, The Secret. During our time together, John taught my wife and me about universal laws, and the power of the human brain. This is where my research into the brain’s function began.

One of the most impactful things John taught me that weekend was the incredible power of meditation. After teaching us the mechanics of meditation, and how to clear our minds of thought, he let us practice for a while so we could build some skill level at it. He then gave us each a spoon. He led us through a short meditation, and before we knew it, we were bending spoons with our hands. I don’t mean making little bends in the handle of the spoon; I mean tying the spoon in knots, like it was a string, and all this with zero effort! The moment I applied conscious thought to what I was doing, the moment I started thinking, “Hey, I’m bending a spoon!” the bending stopped, and the spoon became a solid object again. John explained that the unconscious mind can be accessed through meditation, opening the doors to powers that are blocked by the limitations of our conscious beliefs. In addition, it has enormous… Continue reading

Scan the Stage or Platform

scanthestageHaving taken a good look at the stage area well ahead of my presentation, I was able to foresee the restrictions, and to adjust my delivery accordingly.

I recently gave a presentation to a government department, in a room that was built like a theatre. It had rising seats, a large, low stage at the front, and a raised podium on one side of the stage. Behind the stage was a huge screen. The screen went from ceiling to floor, and was as wide as the stage. This configuration had major implications for me. I was using PowerPoint slides in this particular presentation, and my slides were critical to the message. This particular government department keeps heavy security; therefore, I was required to send them my presentation ahead of time. They loaded it up on their own system, so I was at the mercy of their stage configuration. The challenge for me was my lack of ability to travel across the stage, as is my regular rhythm, because I had to remain behind the podium, otherwise I’d obstruct the screen. In addition, the podium was equipped with a wired microphone, and a mouse for advancing the slides. Both the microphone and mouse cable were only long enough the reach the podium; there was no room for wandering. Having taken a good look at the stage area well ahead of my presentation, I was able to foresee the restrictions, and to… Continue reading

Review Your Notes

reviewyournotesIf I do have paper notes, they typically hold only keywords, not a script.

I’m frequently asked if I ever use notes on the podium when I speak. The answer is that I do, in a manner of speaking. On occasion, I’ll have notes on paper, but very rarely. If I do have paper notes, they typically hold only keywords, not a script. If I’m in the role of Master of Ceremonies, I’ll have notes with the order of events, but, generally, my notes are in the form of pictures in my head.

I’ll create a visual stack of pictures in my mind that serves as a road map for my presentation. As I speak, I review the pictures in my mind, and that helps keep me on the right track. I do, however, always review my notes, whether they’re on paper or in my head, a few minutes before I speak. This is to make sure I have a recent exposure to the material so my recall is better. The purpose is not to memorize the speech, but to refresh the key points in my mind. Some people run into difficulty here, because they try to do a last-minute run through of their entire speech or presentation, and then get frustrated when they can’t remember the entire thing. That frustration leads to anxiety, which reduces the ability of the brain to focus. The presentation is doomed before it begins.… Continue reading

Listen To the Stage

listentothestageJust as one room feels different from another, the sound also carries differently.

The sound in a room can be affected by countless factors, including the type of carpet on the floor, the height of the ceiling, the existence and the location of windows. There’s nothing you can do about most of those things, but there’s one thing you should be aware of that offers you a small amount of control. It’s something few speakers pay attention to, and maybe that’s the reason I’ve never read or heard of anyone else making this point, but you should listen to the stage itself. Many facilities will have a portable stage that can be taken down and moved at any time. The potential issue with these types of platforms is that they’re typically hollow, and, if cheaply made, will make booming noises when you walk on them. We became particularly concerned about this type of staging when we were playing in the band, because a hollow stage often meant a thunderous echo would reverberate from the floor as we pounded on the drums, or danced around on stage. Now, as a speaker, it’s not likely that you’ll be quite that dramatic. Although, if you like to walk around the stage like I do, there can be a disruptive effect. Hollow stage platforms often resonate when you walk on them, and your microphone can pick up that sound and amplify it, booming through… Continue reading

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