There’s no doubt about it: Gestures can make or break a presentation.
Use too many and your audience can’t focus on what you have to say. Use too few, and you risk appearing stiff and detached.
In a recent Washington Post article, behavioral investigator and consultant Vanessa Van Edwards says proper hand gestures make audiences happy because they’re offered two avenues of communication – speech and movement.
Upping your game
Here are some key do’s and don’ts of hand gestures:
- Do use open palm gestures to help gain your audience’s trust.
- Do keep your hands in the “strike zone,” the area from your shoulders to the top of your hips.
- Do let your hands drop to your sides for a minute to regroup if you catch yourself using the wrong gestures.
- Do use gestures when you’re behind a lectern. While it’s tempting to hide behind a piece of furniture (or have a white-knuckle grip on it), this won’t add to your presentation.
- Don’t point. You’ll come across as aggressive and unwelcoming.
- Don’t use the “Clinton thumb” – that gesture politicians use where they make a fist and let their thumb sit on top of it. It’s unnatural and awkward.
- Don’t draw attention to awkward places — or, to put it less delicately, don’t stand with your hands clasped in front of your groin. If you catch yourself doing this, let your hands fall to your sides for a moment to regroup.
- Don’t hold anything. Having a pen or papers in your hands leads to unnecessary fidgeting.