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24 May

Let Your Hands Do The Talking

gestures

As a presenter, two of your most valuable tools are found at the end of your arms. By using your hands, you can add meaning and emphasis to your message, making it much easier for your audience to relate to you and follow your line of thinking. 

It seems obvious, but in a virtual presentation, in order to use your hands effectively, you must first make sure your audience is able to see them, so avoid stuffing hands into pockets or hiding them in the folds of your crossed arms.

What participants hear your voice saying and what they see your hands saying must be in alignment, so it’s important to practice your gestures as you prepare for your talk.  Fact is, a sizable share of your impact is going to come from body language. Research has revealed that, at least in face-to-face or stage presentations, only 38% of a message is conveyed by a speaker’s voice. 55% is conveyed by body language, and a mere 7% of the message is actually conveyed through words.

In a virtual setting, in which your image is concentrated in a “box” on viewers’ screens, eye contact and voice might command a greater share of your audience’s attention, and your gestures, to be effective, must do their work in the area between the top of your chest and your waist.  

Virtually, it becomes all the more important to avoid nervous habits such as stroking your chin, straightening your tie, or running a hand through your hair. While adults tend to have better recall when information is repeated, repetitive gestures can have the opposite effect, serving to distract attention rather than focus it. Try for hand movements that are fluid and smooth, not stiff or jerky, gestures that match the points you’re trying to emphasize.

Speaking of “points”, as the Science of People explains, finger pointing should be used with caution – don’t point at the camera lens (audience members might interpret that as threatening), but upwards to stress the importance of a concept you’re explaining. Palms held outward can mean “you”; moved higher, open palms can represent the concept of growth. Clasping your hands can show coming together, or agreement. In listing concepts or rules, hold up one finger for the first item, two for the next, etc.

In the virtual setting, gestures may or may not speak louder than words. Either way, as a presenter, you want to let your hands help you succeed!

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