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How to Use Hand Gestures in a Presentation

How to Use Hand Gestures in a Presentation

In my line of work, I give presentations to my team members quite often. As I give my presentations, I am always very aware of my audience and their interest level. If they look bored, then I need to adjust myself accordingly and win back their attention.

I want to keep them engaged and interested in what I’m saying, and I find that hand gestures are a powerful way to raise excitement and keep my audience’s attention. Effective gestures help to build trust, and convey my ideas more clearly.

Communication is 93% non-verbal and only 7% verbal, while all the rest is expressed through body language. Gesturing actually makes people pay closer attention to the acoustics of speech. When they see a gesture, they expect that there is dialogue to go along with it.

The usage of gestures along with speech varies depending on culture. Many people ask me if I’m a little bit Italian because I “talk with my hands.” The Italian language itself is very expressive and poetic, and the hand gestures make it even more so. The more emphasis that we put on our speech, the more expressive our gestures become.

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So while you are rehearsing your speech, be sure to rehearse your hand gestures as well. Don’t link your hands behind your back as you speak, it will make you seem rigid and your audience will lose interest.

Here are some helpful hand gestures to keep your audience engaged.

Palms Up Instead of Down.

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    Keeping your palms up and open indicates that you are being open and honest. This will invite your audience in, and make them feel comfortable. By keeping your palms down, without even realizing it, your tone is slightly threatening and directs the audience to be submissive.

    Research finds that lecturers who mainly used the palm up gesture received 84% positive feedback while those who used the palm down gesture only received 52% of positive feedback when they do the exactly the same presentation.[1]

    Hand “steepling” instead of hand “wringing”.

      Hand steepling was a common practice used by Steve Jobs during his presentations to convey a message of confidence and wisdom. Notice how he never used hand “wringing” because it comes across as fidgety and nervous behavior. Hand steepling can be used effectively during intermediate moments, such as when you are thinking or switching topics.

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      Use the “OK” gesture instead of pointing

      Squeeze your index finger against your thumb to make the “OK” gesture. Got it? This motion is authoritative, but not aggressive as pointing would be.

        We took a survey from an audience on which hand gesture they prefer. The audience reported that the individual who used the “OK” signal came across as thoughtful, goal-oriented, and focused. Whereas the individual who used pointing gestures came across to the audience as aggressive, belligerent, and rude. This put off the audience, and in response they paid less attention to the speech.

        Don’t put your hands on your hips, or joined behind your back

        How do you think you look with your hands on your hips? A bit like a parent scolding a child? That’s how it appears to your audience. This stance makes you seem less professional, and your audience will feel that you are trying to dictate them instead of guide them.

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        As I’d previously mentioned, putting your hands behind your back makes you look awkward and serious. Your hands are your tools! Use them! Communicate your message more effectively to show specific numbers with your fingers, or length with your hands. Your audience will be engaged and pay closer attention to your point.

        Use “side-palm” to persuade your audience

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          Hold your hand out in handshake position. This gesture is what is known as “side-palm.” You are literally reaching out to your audience, and it will make them want to meet you half way. Since you have their undivided attention, it will be much easier to persuade them.

          Practice these helpful gestures to engage your audience and politely enforce your authority. Having a good speech just isn’t enough. With these gestures, you will effectively get your point across without turning off your audience.

          Reference

          More by this author

          Brian Lee

          Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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          Last Updated on July 13, 2020

          How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

          How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

          Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

          If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

          1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

          The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

          Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

          For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

          The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

          2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

          Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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          As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

          Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

          3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

          Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

            This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

            We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

            Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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            When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

            Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

            4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

            Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

            For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

            Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

            5. Make Decisions

            For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

            If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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            If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

            Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

            I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

            This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

            The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

            6. Take Some Form of Action

            Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

            The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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            It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

            Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

            The Bottom Line

            Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

            When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

            More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

            Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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