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:
- 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.
- 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!