When you’re giving a presentation, the audience may be consciously listening to your words, but they’re also subconsciously tuned into your body language, facial expressions, and visual focus. The way in which you present yourself physically can have a significant effect on your ability to engage and persuade them. At this point you’re probably wondering, “When I give a presentation, what should I be doing with my hands?”
I suggest taking the middle road when it comes to gesturing while presenting. At one end of the spectrum is the speaker who leaves his hands at his sides the whole time he’s talking. This makes him look stiff and uncomfortable, and it makes the audience uneasy, whether they consciously realize it or not. At the other end of the spectrum is the speaker who uses a gesture with every word. This can be distracting and visually tiring.
It’s important to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Think about what you do with your hands when you’re having a conversation with someone with whom you’re very comfortable. You probably gesture occasionally for emphasis. You neither stand with your hands at your sides nor move your arms with every word. This middle ground looks natural while helping you maintain your listener’s attention. It provides visual reinforcement without being distracting.
On a related note, people often ask me if it’s OK to have your hands in your pockets while presenting. I don’t think it’s a big deal to have one hand in your pocket as long as you’re not fiddling with coins or keys in there… and as long as the rest of your body remains energized, your posture is good, and you’re physically engaged.
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