How to improve your public speaking skills using shopping bags?

“Anthony, I hate shopping and how can shopping bags help me improve my public speaking skills?” I said.

I was speaking to Anthony Day – DTM, after our Leeds City Toastmasters meeting, badgering him for tips to improve my public speaking skills and he had mentioned – Shopping bags.

Anthony smiled and said, “Shopping bags does not mean literal shopping bags. It is a metaphor for how to use your hands when speaking.”

I was intrigued. I could not understand the link but listened intently.

“When you deliver your speech, imagine that you are carrying shopping bags. That way your arms will remain comfortably by your side. Then when you need to deliver a gesture, you can lift your hands and make the necessary gesture. So, if I was speaking about watching TV, then I would start from my side and show a small box,” said Anthony demonstrating by keeping his arms to his sides and then showing a rectangle with his hands. “It is much more effective gesture because for the remainder of time, my hands are by my side.”

“But Anthony, would it not look odd, with my arms to my sides?”

“Initially it will feel odd to you, not to the audience. With practise you can make it feel natural. Then you will notice the difference. Most speakers make common mistakes like hands in their pockets or wringing their hands or even clasping their hands as if they are praying. These mistakes make the speakers look nervous. So practice keeping your arms to your sides and watch the positive impact you have on the audience.”

I thanked Anthony for the tip.

If you enjoyed this tip, please join us at our next meeting at Leeds City Toastmasters or White Rose Speakers and you can try it out.

Dinesh Kaulgud


Leeds City Toastmasters – Crowne Plaza, Leeds – 1st and 3rd Thursday

White Rose Speakers Jury’s Inn, Brewery Wharfe, Leeds – 2nd and 4th Wednesday