By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ

Another aspect of non-verbal communication is hand movements and gestures. In my open presentation skills courses people often ask me, what should they do with their hands?

Gesturing is a natural phenomenon that nobody really understands. It is certainly connected with our speech and research has shown that forcing people to suppress gestures actually makes them less fluent and engaging. On TV we see some politicians using gestures very deliberately to emphasise key messages. So what about us normal mortals?

Well I suggest that you start by getting some feedback on your gestures and whether they are distracting in any way. Remember gesturing is natural and often unconscious. Irritating repetitive gestures like clicking pens. Rubbing noses, playing with hair etc are best eliminated by conscious effort once identified. Using a colleague to give you objective advice really helps.

You can consider deliberately adding some gestures to add emphasis or impact to your verbal messages. Using your finders to show that you have three key messages can be very effective. Holding your hands wide apart when talking about a big opportunity helps to create the image of scale in your listener’s minds. But don’t get bogged down with this. Be natural, be yourself.

And finally, the answer to the question of what to do with your hands when not gesturing. The ideal position is to have your hands hanging loosely by your sides, ready to gesture whenever the mood takes you. But if this is too much of a stretch then try holding your hands at waist height with your finger tips lightly resting against each other pointing outwards. Don’t interlock your fingers or you will stop yourself from gesturing naturally and that will make you less confident and fluent.

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