Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 229) – Lou Holtz

Lou Holtz - Have something to say; it doesn't matter where your hands are

Lou Holtz – American Football Player, Coach and Analyst

“All you need is something to say and a burning desire to say it. It doesn’t matter where your hands are.”

— Lou Holtz


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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4 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 229) – Lou Holtz

  1. I agree with what I assume this is driving at – that gestures are less important than your message and your passion. It’s unfortunate that the quote says where your hands are doesn’t matter though. Because, as this video shows, it does matter!

    Still, thanks for posting a thought-provoking quote that’s got us discussing what it means in practice.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Craig. I simplified the second sentence to make my meaning clearer.

      As to the quote, I like it just the way it is precisely because of its “provocative” nature, at least as far as speakers are concerned. As I said way back in the very first “quote post”, my goal is to throw up quotes without comment and then let people express themselves as to what they think.

      As to the essence of the quote, I watched the video in your post. Yes, the speaker does move from our right to left, which is not ideal from the audience’s perspective, unless your mother tongue is Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Kurdish or any other language that goes from right to left. (I have had a fair bit of practice speaking to audiences in the Middle East.) And yes, I teach this point in my courses. But at the end of the day, the gesture does not detract all that much from the message.

      I have seen a lot of novice speakers focus an inordinate amount of time on things like body language and staging relative to the structure and key message of the speech, and the speech suffers as a result. I think that speakers should watch Ken Robinson’s first TED Talk several times for a variety of reasons, and I know that you have. Yes, Robinson uses hand gestures but for extended periods, his hands are by his side doing nothing. And yet the talk is absolutely captivating because of, among many other things, his passion for reforming the way we educate our children.

  2. Conor Neill says:

    Hehe… If you truly speak from the heart you don’t need to practice, but often we need a lot of practice to find what our heart truly stands for.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Indeed. I love this quote, not because hand gestures and body language aren’t important; they are. I just think that they are not as important as other things.

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