How to Use Hand Gestures Effectively
February 8, 2021
Whether you are presenting virtually through a screen or in-person, hand gestures remain an important part of successful communication. By reinforcing your words and ideas, hand gestures make it easier for your audience to follow along. They can also add an extra layer of expression, which helps strengthen your key points. To use hand gestures effectively, avoid distractive movements, use only positive gestures, and rehearse them thoroughly beforehand.
Avoid Distractive Movements
If we feel nervous, it is often unconsciously reflected in our gestures. You might find yourself tapping your finger, fidgeting, or touching your hair without even realizing it. To you, those gestures don’t impact your speech.To your audience, though, it could be distracting enough to pull their focus away from your message. Practice your presentation with that in mind to minimize and eliminate as many of those movements as possible.
Positive Hand Gestures to Utilize
If you are presenting remotely, some positive hand gestures you can use involve symbolic gestures and descriptive gestures. Symbolic gestures indicate words, numbers, or a position. They might include using a thumbs-up to show agreement, holding a number of fingers up to correlate with presentation numbers, or pointing to show a position. Descriptive gestures are used to describe objects and situations, so they could include spreading your hands apart to show length or demonstrating how something moves.
If you are standing while you speak, you can also use an open palm facing outwards towards your audience. This indicates that you are being honest, which will make them feel more comfortable. According to The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease, research finds that people 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 exact same presentation.” By doing this simple gesture, audiences are more likely to see you as trustworthy and feel a sincerity in your message.
Rehearse Your Hand Gestures
It may feel silly to rehearse your hand movements ahead of time, but it is no different than practicing the verbal parts of your presentation. Since effective communication requires both verbal and non-verbal elements, it makes sense to rehearse all aspects of your presentation – including your body language. Consider recording yourself while you practice your presentation. Watching it back can help you identify your movements. It can also show you where you could add a few gestures to make certain statements even more persuasive. Try to get in the habit of practicing deliberate hand gestures so that it eventually feels natural and smooth.
Using hand gestures correctly can improve your message and make you appear more confident and relaxed. However, using them incorrectly could end up distracting your audience or sending the wrong non-verbal message. The next time you prepare for a presentation, keep these tips in mind for a successful meeting.