How to Use Your Hands as a Presenter

Public speaking is a skill several successful presenters have mastered, with one particular skill that is always carried with them when delivering presentations, that skill is knowing where to place your hands while speaking. The question, “What the heck should I do with my hands?” was recently answered on the Prezi Blog, with valuable tips and advice to new and experienced public speakers. Read on as we share their tips and elaborate on the advice of how to use your hands as a presenter.

Often times presenters are so focused on their content and memorizing a speech that they forget the non-verbal communication of their hands, which also plays a valuable role in delivering the message of a speech.

Remember this as you stand up on stage and deliver your speech, that the actions of your hands and your expressions you make could have a negative impact on your overall message. Whether you feel anxious, excited, nervous or have a habit of cracking your knuckles throughout your speech, you need to address these feelings and habits head-on so you can become self-aware of your presentation skills and master this form of non-verbal communication.

Keep in mind your “in the moment” reactions of using hand gestures need to be just as fast as your “in the moment” verbal reactions to keep the audience focused on your speech. Don’t worry, this is a lot to ask if you’re a beginner at public speaking so we will take your hand and walk you through this process as we offer advice on where to place your hands and how to overcome these situations while on stage.

1. Go Big

The more you project your hands and capture the attention of your audience, the more engaged your audience will be with your presentation. (Just don’t overdue it and look like you’re directing the audience in an orchestra concert). You can still emphasize key moments by using non-verbal communication, like hand gestures, just in a controlled manner. This non-verbal communication will help draw the attention of an audience to your message by the attraction of your hands, complimenting your message with actions is actually an effective and efficient way to communicate to your audience.

An example of this dynamic gesture can be used when you are counting out key points to your speech and raising one finger for the first point, then two fingers for the second point, and so on. Or use your hands to compliment your words. If you say hi, then wave, if you look sad, then wipe the tear, if you want the crowd to clap along then raise your hands high and motion for them to join in on the fun.

2. Open Up

Keep your hands open at all times and avoid the “prayer” position while presenting. This position gives the audience a bad impression because the clasped fingers could come off as a symbol of hierarchy to the audience or they may think you are closing off their thoughts or comments. Another impression this hand gesture gives off is the lack of confidence portrayed from your own hands. Pulling your hands together can appear as though you are pulling yourself away from the audience, scared to reach out and too nervous to unlock your hands and speak with confidence.

So open your hands and show the audience your confidence by keeping your fingers opened at all times. Invite them to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and opinions, after all they are the ones who paid to see you and have the authority of writing reviews on your presentation skills.

3. Loosen Up

The anxious and nervous feelings of speaking in public are expected, what is not expected is the tense way your body stiffens up during a speech. The next time you feel yourself fidgeting with your hands or cracking your knuckles, nonchalantly move your arms down and rest your hands peacefully by your side. This way they will be out of your way and not distraction to your audience.

Several public speakers have already addressed these concerns when it comes to presentation, but as the Prezi Blog continued their research, they emphasized the fundamental truth of our emotions being driven by our actions. Meaning if you behave in confidence or act in a way that represents confidence, the results will eventually get you to feel that confidence and power. So even though you might not have the confidence that day, fake it and act in confidence for your audience.

Whether you’re experienced or new to public speaking it is always good to practice your speech, try videotaping yourself to see your performance and if there needs to be any changes or alterations in your delivery and non-verbal communication. You can do this by focusing on the information above and use these presentation tips during your next speech. If you keep in mind the advice of going big, opening up and loosening up, then you will know exactly how to use your hands as a presenter and master your speech.

photo credit: Toni Blay via photopin cc