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British Sign Language (Discover Prompts #6 – HANDS)

I have been a Toastmaster since 2008, over the years I have learnt to curtail my excessive hand gestures, the clutching of hands at waist-level, the gripping of the podium and worst of all my incessant pacing etc. It took some time but I finally worked out how to release the tension, let my arms drop to my sides and allow the gestures I use to animate my talks; to become more dramatic and less, shall we say, frentetic.

However, I now find myself delivering my board meetings, my talks and my business advice online. That means I am visible, pretty much from the waist up. Now I need to rethink how I deliver a message. Most times I can’t use a stage, most times I am seated, most times I can’t see how my audience is reacting.

I was introduced to British Sign Language when I did my teaching degree twenty years ago and whilst I didn’t get the relevance then, I have since recognised how we can adopt signage to help us to convey our meaning not just for the hard of hearing but for everyone.

There are many gestures that are delivered to support the deaf that we can use to help illustrate our messages and whilst I am not suggesting that any of us will immediately become fluent in the art of sign language, we ought to know how important it is in delivering a message. Most but certainly not all, are delivered facially or through hand signals that are from waist-level upwards to ensure they are mostly seen at eye level.

I recommend that, if you need to deliver any message online, that you consider how you position your camera, (whatever technology you use) so you can look into it as much as you can. Eye contact is so important to building trust. Then, consider how much space you have between the camera and yourself. In other words, how much will the viewer be able to see from your body language. This is about positioning. Then, consider what gestures you can use to reinforce your message.

Let’s just consider … The static messages from the three podiums in Downing Street about the Big V are so very different to the messages that Nicola Sturgeon is delivering from Edinburgh, due largely to her interpreter. I say, well done, to you Nicola! And thank you.



  1. I learned BSL many years ago and really enjoyed it. I can just about remember how to sign my name now.
    I’m living in the US now and ASL is totally different. If I could find a class I’d love to learn

    Liked by 1 person

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