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Presentation Skills Tip: Using Hand Gestures Effectively

Hi, this is Anne Warfield with Impression
Management Professionals. Today we’re gonna look at the hand-off. How to have your hands,
add to –and not distract — from your presentation. Do your arm and hand gestures add to your
conversation? Or do you feel like they distract from it? Is there an answer to what you should
do with hand gestures so you appear more confident, relaxed, and trustworthy. You know, finding the right amount of hand
gestures can be really tough during a presentation. The reason is that once your brain feels like
it needs to get people onto your side, or it feels nervous as to whether people will
accept what you’re saying, it begins to send messages to your neurons and your muscles
to act accordingly. So literally, you can have no idea how much your hands are doing
while you’re trying to talk. It’d be so nice wouldn’t it, if we could just unscrew our
arms, put ’em off to the side, until we’re done presenting, and then re-attach them?
But unfortunately, that’s not possible. So I’m gonna share with you, what you can
do in order to make sure that the impression that your hand gestures give is the one that
matches what you want, all the while so you’re exuding high executive presence. So let’s
see what some things mean. Open palms, are seen by the audience as a sign that you’re
open and honest. So when you’re talking about controversial topics, keep your hands out
in front. That’s very important. If you put your hands behind your back or into your pockets,
your audience will feel as though you’re withholding information, or you’re detached from them.
Matter of fact, just go down to a courtroom, and watch how people plead. People who are
guilty often put their hands behind their back when they stand and state their plea. Now if you put your hands down in front of
you and clasp them together, it’s what’s called the “fig leaf position”, and you appear submissive.
Now this is because your shoulders naturally stoop downward, and they give you that submissive
look. So watch my shoulders, and look at the difference when I bring my hands up to my
waist, versus when I drop them down into the fig leaf gesture. Notice how they remain more
square, and strong when my hands are up. So what should you do with your hands during
a presentation? Your hands should either be naturally down at your side, up near your
waist, clasped loosely in front of you at the waist level, or you can have one hand
at your waist level and one more loosely at your side. The most important thing is to have your hands
appear natural to you and the audience. So if you’re a person who’s very expressive and
you use your hands a lot while talking, then do the same while you’re presenting. I watched
one woman who was a very expressive person try to keep her hands below to her side, her
poor little hands flopped around on the end of her arm which was completely stiff. To
the audience, it looked like a little fish, flopping on the end of a pole. When I asked
her what she was doing, she said she’d been told that she used too many hand movements
and so she was trying to stop it. I said, “Let it go, your hands wanna move”. So here’s my point, when you’re in front of
an audience you want them to see and feel your character and integrity. This means that
you need to be authentic, and that the person they see on the platform is the same person
they meet if they run into at the grocery store, or at the gas station. So if you’re
an expressive person, use your hands. If you don’t, it will appear to the audience as though
you’re uncomfortable speaking with them. And if you’re a non-expressive person, don’t worry
about it, don’t use your hands, just occasionally gesture so that your hands don’t lie limp
at your side the whole time your talking. Most importantly, make sure you’re grounded
in the value you’re offering your audience. Don’t try to wow them, dazzle them, or show
them how brilliant you are. All of those thoughts will cause your brain to send extra energy
to your neurons and cause you to become too expressive with your hands. Just be grounded
that you’re there to add value to them, and your strength will come through in your relaxed
manner as you communicate with them. May you go forth and have a great outcome focus day
filled with fabulous results.

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