Hand Itis

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 12th March 2016

In the past I've mentioned the unnecessary hand and arm waving which seems to be the current trend among so many presenting on television. In my opinion, It is fast becoming an epidemic.

In everyday life and up until last week, I've never experienced a speaker with such continuous hand and arm movement that it completely destroyed my concentration.  At times I had to look away or shut my eyes because I couldn't concentrate on what was being said.  I was almost hyponotised by the non-stop hand movement.  The workshop ran from 10.00 till 3.00 and I was exhausted at the end. The most common movement was a quite unnecessary roly-poly movement of both hands.    It demonstrated nothing, added nothing and was totally distracting. At one stage I needed to ask a question and then realised I'd totally missed the fact that the speaker had moved onto another subject so distracted was I by the hands. At one stage the speaker picked up a box and at least one hand remained still for a time.

The speaker's content was good and interesting but ruined for me by the unnecessary and constant movement.  When this person began the career, it would have been the easiest task to cure the bad habit but it is probably too late now.

When I attended school we had one lesson a week in 'Public Speaking' where we had to address the class on a topic or stand and recite a poem. We were taught 'stillness' and in those days few of us would ever go on to have the need for addressing large gatherings. In today's world of conferences, inspirational talks etc. many folk need to address an audience and so few have ever had any 'training'.There are a few golden rules when addressing an audience in a large venue,  speak more slowly than one would do in everyday life, enunciate clearly and project your voice.

When I left the BBC I thought about setting up a 'Presentation Skills Company' but not being a business minded person and worried about  'losing the roof over my head', I didn't proceed.  How I wish I had done. In ordinary everyday conversation I use my hands a great deal but not when I am presenting on television or giving a talk or addressing a conference.

Some presenters are a pleasure to watch.  Fiona Bruce, presenting The Antiques Road Show, has such calmness, makes you feel relaxed and adds enormously to the enjoyment of the programme. At the extreme Professor Mary Beard drove me nuts whilst watching her programme on Pompeii.  I wish I had a fraction of her erudition but I also wish someone would take her in hand and teach her how to present properly.  At one stage I was unsure whether she prefers being a quirky personality to being a respected academic.  

I don't know where all this hand waving has originated but it is prevalent today and for me destroys my enjoyment of otherwise informative and interesting documentaries.  You don't see actors and actesses waving their arms all over the place on stage. They don't because it would be distracting for an audience - well the same applies to television.  By all means gesture when you are pointing at or pointing out something but not the gratuitous 'windmilling'.

I've never met Richard Madeley but was pleased to read that he too is concerned about the incomprehensibility of much dialogue on television - a matter on which I've commented before.  I maintain that it is down to a lack of clear enunciation coupled with the unintelligibility of many strong accents.  Richard thinks much of it is down to less than perfect sound recording.  But whatever it is, I have a way of dealing with the problem.  If you set the programme to record and then start watching it ten minutes later it give you the facility to re-run the bits you've missed.  Sometimes even this doesn't work.  In Happy Valley there's a person in the office who has a strong accent and it takes me an effort to make out what he is saying.  Fortunately he has a small part!  At other times, if I deem it not to be intrinsically important to the story I just shrug my shoulders and keep watching in the hope I've not missed anything vital.  

Which brings me back to why I like watching Foreign series - not only are they very good indeed but there is a valid excuse for subtitles.

On hand-itis, is it only me or are others concerned and distracted by the trend?

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.