Body language expert breaks down Kamala Harris’ victory speech

Today was understandably an overwhelming and emotional experience for many people living in the U.S. (and probably some living abroad as well), and we’re sure that goes double for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. While you may have seen the short clip of her celebratory call with running mate (and now President-elect) Joe Biden earlier today, Harris projected — to us — nothing but serenity and thoughtful composure during her victory speech this evening. To gain more insight into Harris’ mindset, The List spoke with Joseph Hoelscher, body language expert and Managing Attorney at Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC.

Hoelscher agrees that overall Kamala Harris was incredibly composed, noting that he feels Harris has “…obviously got some formal training” when it comes to public speaking. Hoelscher describes the soon-to-be-VP’s performance as “lawyerly” and states, “She was focused on her performance and delivery in a very deliberate way. Unlike Biden, she is focused on delivering her words precisely, which is probably because of her courtroom training.”

Kamala Harris' hands give away her years of training

While this deliberate and controlled speaking style seems to work for Harris in and outside the courtroom, Hoelscher says that to experts, her hands betray her. “Lawyers often struggle behind a podium and she didn’t know how to use it,” he said. “Her hands were almost always close together, if not clasped… her hands weren’t moving organically which you can tell from her minimal number of different hand gestures and the specific gestures. For example, she used the open hand gesture predominantly but her fingers were straight and touching with rarely any space between them. She also did the closed fist thumbs up gesture which is training, not nature.”

While a pro like Hoelscher can pick out these learned habits from a mile away, us novices are a little less able to spot them. “Shoulders were straight on and squared almost throughout,” he said. “All of which is to say that she was focused on a professional delivery to a fairly extreme degree for a polished speaker. To me, it means that she is a highly focused, driven, and likely intelligent person. It’s hard to control that many aspects of your non-verbal communication at once while delivering a message so precisely.” Count us impressed!

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