Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just unscrew our arms and throw them off to the side and when we are done presenting reattach them? Unfortunately that’s not possible, so let me give you some things you can do with your arms and hands while presenting.
Open palms are seen by the audience as a sign that you are open and honest. So if you put your hands behind your back or in your pockets, the audience will feel to as though you are withholding information or are detached from them. If you put your hands down in front of you and clasp them together (the fig leaf position) you will appear to be submissive.
So what should you do with your hands during a presentation?
Your hands should either be naturally down by your side, up near your waist, clasped loosely in front of you at waist level, or have one hand at waist level and one loosely at your side. The most important thing is to have your hands appear natural to the audience.
If you are a person who is very expressive and use your hands a lot while talking, then do the same while you are presenting. I watched one woman, who was a very expressive person, try to keep her hands glued to her sides. Her poor little hands flopped around on the end of her arms, which were completely stiff. To the audience, it looked like fish flopping on the end of a pole. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she had been told that she used too many hand movements and she was trying to stop it.
Here is Anne Warfield’s point: when you are in front of an audience, you want them to see and feel your character and integrity. This means that you need to be authentic, and that the person they see on the platform is the same person they would meet if they ran into you at a grocery store. Therefore, if you are an expressive person, use your hands! If you don’t, it will appear to the audience as though you are uncomfortable speaking with them.
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