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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 September 20, 2018

          8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

          8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

          You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

          Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

          When you train your brain, you will:

          • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
          • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
          • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

          So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

          1. Work your memory

          Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

          When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

          If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

          The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

          Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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          Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

          What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

          For example, say you just met someone new:

          “Hi, my name is George”

          Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

          Got it? Good.

          2. Do something different repeatedly

          By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

          Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

          It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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          And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

          But how does this apply to your life right now?

          Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

          Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

          Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

          So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

          You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

          That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

          3. Learn something new

          It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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          For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

          Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

          You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

          4. Follow a brain training program

          The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

          5. Work your body

          You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

          Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

          Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

          Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

          6. Spend time with your loved ones

          If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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          If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

          I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

          7. Avoid crossword puzzles

          Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

          Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

          Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

          8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

          Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

          When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

          So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

          The bottom line

          Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

          Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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