Partners in Performance Blog

Presentations: What do Gestures have to do with Persuasion?

This is a guest post from my associate Judie Knoerle, owner of Red Cup Presentations and author of UPFRONT Persuasion Through Presentation.

As a presentation coach I find the most often asked question is, “What do I do with my hands?” Holding them behind your back signals you’re hiding something. Clutching them in front of your body,  protecting vital organs, signals you’re nervous. Gesturing as you would in normal conversations usually entails unconsciously emphasizing almost every word in a phrase. None of these actions is appropriate for presentations. After all, how can you be persuasive if NOTHING is accented or when EVERYTHING you say is important enough to emphasize with gesture?

So, what do you do with your hands during a presentation? Can your gestures help you be more persuasive? The answer is yes.

There are three things to remember regarding gestures:

  1. Show a palm. You begin to establish trust with your palms facing the audience. Avoid making fists, pointing and clutching.
  2. Stay open to your audience. Keep your hands away from the centre of your body.
  3. Hold a gesture.

My advice is to think of your sentences as bulleted lines of text. Rather than gesturing every word in the sentence, accent only the first word of the bulleted text – holding the gesture until you’ve completed the phrase. Singers do this. Preachers do this. You can do this with practice.

Stand in front of a mirror holding a very full cup of water. When you can speak a line of dialogue without spilling a drop, you’re learning the technique of holding a gesture. Try it first with your left hand, then your right, then hold a cup in each hand.  Now try it without the cup of water, showing your palms to the audience. In no time at all you’ll look more professional, more calm and more in control of your body language. Audiences want to listen to your message without distracting hand movements. Holding a gesture exudes confidence and confidence persuades.

After you mop up the water and dry off your clothes you will quickly grasp the art of holding your gestures. While this may seem a bit silly, it is one of  the best techniques for answering the question about what to do with your hands. You will look more professional, more powerful and you will be more persuasive.

I would love your reaction.What are your thoughts or tips?

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on November 9, 2011 in Delivery Skills, Persuasion, Presentation Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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