Why A ‘Palms Up’ Approach is Best When Presenting

palms up approachI think I got a B+ in public speaking freshman year at Butler. I can’t even remember. And it’s not that I’m bad at it, but we can all use a refresher and to continue to gather new ideas. The first PRSA Hoosier networking event I went to was about presentation – and the presentation that night about presentation was more than presentable.

Rob Norris, a strategic communication instructor at Butler (class of 2006 right here!), covered the How To’s For Public Speaking. In itself, it’s probably not the hottest topic in PR today, but my Matchbook Creative team and I had an upcoming media training with a client and decided to check it out.

I’m glad I did.

I took some thoughts from Rob’s presentation and put it into my media training and it went over well. Here are a few highlights I “borrowed” from Rob, putting his thoughts into action:

  • Physically gesturing with your palms up – instead of a “quiet down, palms down” gesture – is open and welcoming.
  • Change your cadence, volume or stop talking altogether when you sense you’re losing your audience. Hey, we all have to check those mentions, but Rob showed us how to get the attention back on track.
  • At the conclusion, clearly signal your main takeaways and hammer them home at the end. “Now let me leave you with this…”

Personally, Rob’s point about how you’re perceived with an open, palms up stance made a lot of sense to me. I’d never heard that before and thought it really stood out as a piece of advice. My client’s CEO said he loved the conclusion idea – “Now let me leave you with this…”

Our media training went without a hitch and we were able to reference it when we had some notable coverage in the following weeks. And I’ll be sure to revisit those thoughts when he has speaking engagements. A couple things I learned or had reinforced at that event helped my team and I supplement our credibility with one of our biggest clients.

Continuing education aside, I enjoyed being able to visit with Rob for a while. I didn’t have him as a professor at Butler, but I knew of him, so it was nice to finally connect in person. I was also able to catch up with a colleague I hadn’t seen in 5 years as well as meet a few new people.

Now let me leave you with this: be sure to put PRSA Hoosier events on your calendar whenever you can. And be sure to keep your palms up when you go.


Josh Rattray is Public Relations Director at full-service agency Matchbook Creative in Indianapolis. He held a variety of communications and digital roles for some of the NCAA’s top athletics brands before working at marketing agencies in Raleigh, NC and Indy. He is a 2006 graduate of Butler University.