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What Should I Do With My Hands When I'm Presenting?
by Gilda Bonanno

What should I do with my hands when I'm presenting?" is a common question that I hear when I'm teaching public speaking.  Your hands form an important part of your non-verbal communication, or body language, and can help you convey confidence and communicate more effectively to your audience. 

Here are 5 tips for what to do with your hands:

1.    Be Aware of What Your Hands Are Doing

The first step in preventing your hands from distracting your audience is to become conscious of what your hands are doing.  Are you cracking your knuckles, playing with your pen or twisting your note cards? I've seen speakers do each of these actions and they usually don't realize they're doing it.  Focus on your hands while practicing, watch yourself on video or ask for feedback from a trusted colleague. 


2.   Use the "Neutral Position"

When not gesturing, your hands should be in the neutral position – hanging loosely at your sides.  They should not be jammed in your pockets, folded across your chest or clasped behind your back.

3.    Keep Your Hands Empty

There is no need to hold a pen, rubber band or paper clip while speaking.  It's easier and less distracting to gesture with empty hands.  If you must hold your notes, the PowerPoint remote or a microphone, refer to point #1 and be aware of what your hands are doing with that item. 

4.    Relax Your Hands

I've seen speakers clench their hands into fists or grip the sides of the podium, neither of which conveys a relaxed confidence.  Make sure that any nervousness or anxiety you may be feeling is not expressed by your hands.

5.    Gesture to Support Your Words

Simple, natural gestures will support and visually illustrate your words.  For example, use your hands to show distance traveled or open both arms wide to show that you are welcoming the audience. 

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Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2009


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