20121026-gesturesThere are many times when you are giving a presentation, facilitating a workshop or even just participating in a meeting, when you want to use gestures to convey a message more confidently. If you’re unpractised in the art of non-verbal communication you may feel like you’ve made an awkward blunder. This post is to help you turn gesturing into a natural thing that you can use any time to get your message across.

Three simple gestures

Here are some very simple gestures (see the video Make body language your superpower for a simple and entertaining demonstration).

  1. The Give – This is where you hold your arm and hand out, with palm facing upwards, as though you are giving something to someone. You can use one or both hands. Use this to present facts and options to your audience.
  2. The Show – You can use a range of motions to show your audience something. For example with both arms in front of you and palms facing each other, move your arms outwards as though you are stretching an accordion. This can show a range of options or an expanding list.
  3. The Chop – Slice through the air with your hand as though you are chopping a watermelon. You can use one hand or both. Use this to convey a strong opinion, a rule or a law.

Your standing position for these gestures should be with hands relaxed by your side, not in your pockets or on your hips. The hands by your side position may feel awkward for you but it’s the most comfortable position for your audience and you’ll soon become used to it as well.

Note that these are always open and expressive movements, never closed. One of the critical points the video makes at the end – avoid T-Rex gestures!


Power poses

Amy Cuddy’s inspiring TED talk teaches us that spending just 2 minutes in a power pose before going into an evaluative situation will increase your confidence and help you show a positive attitude. The idea is that our bodies can influence our minds, and posing for 2 minutes will make you feel powerful so you will act calm and in-control with confidence.

There are many examples out there – generally open poses where you expand yourself are high power poses whilst poses where you make yourself smaller, taking up less space or protecting yourself, are low power poses.

Practicing – Build it into your morning ritual

Excellent! You know all about gestures. But knowing all about gestures is not enough – it will be very difficult to consciously think about it all the time and often you’ll gesture ineffectively without realising till after it’s done. So your goal is to make it come naturally so you’ll be gesturing like a boss wherever you go!

One of the best ways to build it into your system is to include a 5 minute practice session in your morning ritual. After you’ve had your glass of water (great to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water as soon as you get up – it really gets you alert and ready), gotten dressed and are ready to go out the door, spend 5 minutes in front of the mirror.

A full length mirror is best. Practice your gestures – first use the give, then the show, then maybe a chop. Watch yourself and avoid T-Rex gestures. As you do this every day, it will start becoming very natural. Next time you feel you want to gesture in a meeting, it’ll instinctively come out looking confident. You’ll move your arms away from your body, with palms up in an open motion. This only happens after a lot of practice. If you just know the theory, you won’t be able to do it in the moment because most of your mind will be on the subject being discussed – you’ll only have a small part of your brain power focussed on your body language so you want it to happen without too much concentration needed.

How do improve your use of gestures?


Some inspiring videos on the topic