Often times in business we think that the material is too dry to see in pictures. But if I ask you what a “global economy” looks like, how would you show me “global” in a gesture? If I ask you to show me a “timeline” or “step by step” plans for “expansion” in a gesture, what would it look like? How would you convey a “25% increase” or a “deficit of 10%”? How could you show offices in “Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland”? You could use gestures to place the different offices. Word of caution, if you place items for your audience remember where you placed them so you can keep the items in the same location visually each time you speak of that particular item. Otherwise, instead of helping them to understand the message you will make them more confused.
Do not gesture constantly. The most powerful and effective gestures begin and end in stillness. That means if you are standing, stillness is with your arms at your sides. The arms come up to chest level and your arms come away from the body. The larger the audience the larger the gestures need to be. When you are done with a gesture your arms come back to stillness down at your sides. If you are seated in stillness your arms are on the arms of the chair in an open position. To gesture you come up above the table to chest level but your arms stay close to your body so as not to punch the person next to you. The gestures are no wider than the width of your shoulders. When the gesture is done you come back to stillness with your arms back on the arms of the chair. Never gesture under the table or at hip level. It draws the viewer’s attention down and away from your face and becomes distracting to the message instead of helpful.
Some people have a tendency to be moving their hands and arms all the time. This is very ineffective gesturing and a really great gesture can be lost among all this unnecessary movement. Make sure your gestures are justified. Let me walk you through what I mean by justified:
1. Raise your arm into the air then bring it down
2. Raise your arm into the air and pretend you are trying to reach a gorgeous apple high up in a tree but you can’t quite reach it – bring your arm down.
3. Raise your arm in the air to reach for another gorgeous apple closer to you. Grab the apple and pick it from the tree and take a big bite out of it.
What was the difference in the gestures? The first one did not have an image attached to it so it was unjustified movement—movement without purpose. The second example you could see the apple high up and knew the feeling of trying to reach for something just out of your reach. The third example had several pictures: the apple within reach, picking the apple and taking a bite out of the apple. In the second and third examples, the gestures were justified because they had a picture behind them. Make sure all your gestures are justified.
Those of you who do not gesture at all will think the smallest gesture is over the top. Believe me your audience will not find you or your gesture over the top. Get feedback from people you trust. You can also take advantage of our video critiquing service here at The Presentation Pros. Justified gestures help your audience understand the message you are trying to convey. Your audience wants to clearly see the picture you have in your mind. Help them to see it by using large, justified gestures that begin and end in stillness. By the way, the power is not in the gesture, it is in the stillness. But if you were still for an entire presentation your audience would fall fast asleep.
Those of you who are constantly moving your hands and wrists with no purpose should practice standing and sitting in stillness. Deliver your presentation absolutely still unless you can see a picture in your mind. Then gesture only on that picture.
The good news about using large justified gestures is that the face and voice will follow. When you use strong gestures your voice will become stronger and your facial expressions will follow suit. It is something that happens naturally as a result of seeing in pictures. By seeing in pictures and using justified gestures you will find your presentations become much more powerful and persuasive and you become much more credible. Here’s to justified gestures.
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Debbie Darling, ©2015 The Presentation Pros
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