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How to Use Hand Gestures in a Presentation

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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.

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          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.

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          More by this author

          Brian Lee

          Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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          Published on September 21, 2021

          How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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          How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

          The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

          In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

          1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

          Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

          But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

          Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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          Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

          Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

          While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

          Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

          2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

          At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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          Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

          Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

          Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

          McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

          From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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          3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

          An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

          McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

          Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

          Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

          Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

          So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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          The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

          If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

          Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

          Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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