It's funny when you think about it...How much time in your day do you spend talking to people with no issues around using your hands? For example, when chatting with colleagues, it’s amazing how little you think about your hands. Then you stand up to give a presentation and suddenly it’s “Oh my god, what do I do with these things? Where do I put them?”
Everyone from CEOs to novice presenters ask the same questions. We always offer the same principles. Here they are.
- Use Your Hands For Clarity. Gestures allow you to add a visual element to complicated verbal information. For example, if you need to explain a key difference in making a choice, you could say "We could do this...." (while gesturing to the right) "Or we could do this..." (while gesturing to the left.) Though this sounds simple, it's neurologically proven to help people understand the message more clearly. Think of your hands as nature's gift to data visualization. In your next presentation, instead of relying on your deck, try using your hands to visually illustrate important information. This will dramatically heighten the impact of your message.
- Observe Your Natural Resting Hands. Notice what your hands naturally do when you’re having a conversation. Apply that to the moment of presenting. People overthink hand gestures. Most likely the behaviors you use when feeling relaxed and confident will translate equally well in a presenting context.
- Find Something to Hold. For some people, it’s incredibly calming to hold something in your hand. When going into an important meeting, bring a cup of coffee. Or when giving a presentation, bring a pointer when using slides or hold a bottle of water. These small things will calm your nervous system and no one will notice them.