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What Do I Do With My Hands When Presenting?

Let’s take a step back from the ‘higher philosophies’ of public speaking, and look at something more nuts-‘n-bolts practical: Your hands.

Douglas Kruger

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WhatToDoWithHands

We never really think about our hands, until we have to deliver a presentation, and then they become a blinking nuisance. What on earth are we supposed to do with them?

One of the universal signs of fear, particularly among the males of our species, is a rubbing of the palms of the hands. Women similarly express nervousness through hand-movement, but the tendency is to rub at clothing. Both of these gestures, which we engage inquite unconsciously, undermine us before audiences. Worse still, because we are openly showing our fear, we make the audience uncomfortable.

The solution is actually remarkably simple. In a nutshell, all you need to do is: keep your hands loosely at your sides, hanging relaxed, and then bring them up whenever you gesture. Once your gestureis complete, drop them easily to your sides again. Simple.

But anyone who has presented in front of alive audience knows this is easier said than done. Why is it so hard? The answer is: because it feels unnatural. It actually requires a great deal of self-control to just drop your hands neatly to your side, and allow them to do nothing for a few seconds, then raise them for your next gesture.

Interestingly, however, it doesn’t look strange from an audience’s perspective. So here’s the solution: Try it in front of a mirror.

Practice delivering a few lines, in which you allow your hands to hang, relaxed, by your side. Then simply bring them upnow and again to emphasise a point you make. Then drop them again. You’ll soon see that it actually looks very natural and quite professional.

Here are some do’s and don’ts, as far as our hands go:

Do:

  • Vary your gestures. You don’t want to get stuck in a repetitive pattern.
  • Use both hands, in an ever-changing variety of rhythms (i.e. use your right hand, then your left hand, then both hands, and so on).
  • Let them fall easily (and softly) to your side after each gesture. The movement should look graceful – no need to ‘smack’ the sides of your trousers.

Don’t

  • Touch your face or hair (which be lie untruthfulness and nervousness in turn).
  • Leave your hands in your pockets.
  • Assume the ‘fig-leaf’ position, with your hands clasped dubiously before you.
  • Let your hands ‘flap’ unnecessarily. Gesture consciously and with restraint.
  • Fidget with anything while presenting (the most common offenders being pens and pieces of paper).

Practice is key. As with all aspects of speaking, practice is the key. Do it often before a mirror, and it will feel increasingly right and natural before audiences. And they will be amazed at your polish!

Douglas Kruger is the only speaker in Africa to have won the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking a record five times. He is the author of ‘50 Ways to Become a Better Speaker,’ published in South Africa and Nigeria, ‘50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert,’ and co-author of ‘So You’re in Charge. Now What? 52 Ways to Become a Better Leader.’ See Douglas in action, or read his articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email him at Kruger@compute.co.za, or connect with him on Linked In or Twitter: @DouglasKruger

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(Video) Get More Attention For your Business

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur Coach, explains the importance of communicating your unique skills and the value you can offer clients in this short video.

Entrepreneur

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Demonstrating what you bring to the table isn’t always easy.

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur Coach, explains the importance of communicating your unique skills and the value you can offer clients in this short video.

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(Video) How You Can Make Your Next Presentation Memorable

How to make your pitch memorable.

Entrepreneur

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Carmine-Gallo

From delivering board room presentations to speaking before a live audience, speaking publicly is something most of us will have to do at some point. But if we’re going to take the time to develop and practice delivering a presentation, we want to make sure the content and the “performance” are memorable, right?

In this video, keynote speaker and communication coach Carmine Gallo offers his top tips for how you can make your next business presentation one your audience won’t soon forget. Gallo is author of TALK LIKE TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of The World’s Top Minds.

Gallo recommends following the “rule of three.” Instead of presenting 15 or 20 points, stick with three or four features or pieces of advice. Why? It’s easier for people to remember and stay engaged with what you’re saying.

“It’s almost impossible for the human brain to ignore that group of three,” Gallo says. “We have to know what those three are.”

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(Video) How to Hit the Presentation Content Nail on the Head

Building better business presentations.

Entrepreneur

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Avoid the glassy-eyed look from your audience by creating a strong presentation that delivers an exciting experience. Pam Slim delves into her process and techniques for choosing content to fill her presentation slides.

“Ask yourself: What do you want people to walk away with?”

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