In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit.
Or two . . . or three.
As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way. For instance, without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations that distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.
Accordingly, here are a few of the more common examples of bad gesturing involving just your fingers. These are so common that I cannot but believe that someone, somewhere is training folks in these oddities, and it’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.
Control Those Fingers!
Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.” This nervous habit can destroy your professional presence, can weaken your confidence, can take you down a dark road of mediocrity.
This bad presentation habit many people develop unconsciously as they try to discover what to do with their hands.
You know you should do something with your appendages, but no one has told you what. So you develop these unconscious bad presentation habits.
Many different activities come under the heading of “finger play.”
Tugging at your fingers. I suspect that we all carry a “finger-tugging” gene embedded deep in our DNA that is suppressed only with difficulty.
Bending your fingers back in odd manner. This is a ubiquitous movement, universally practiced. It consists of grasping the fingers and bending them back, as if counting something, and then holding them there for a spell. It’s almost a finger-tug, but more pronounced.
Waving your hands around with floppy wrist movement. This is not only distracting, but the wobbly wrist action creates a perception of weakness and uncertainty.
Simply by eliminating these commonplace pathologies from your own presenting, you strengthen by subtraction.
Stop Bad Presentation Habits!
Why would you want to “gesture?” Aren’t your words enough?
We gesture to add force to our points. To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear. A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal these gestures?
While its range is limited, gesture can carry powerful meaning. It should carry powerful meaning; this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.
Said James Winans in 1915:
Gesture, within its limitations, is an unmistakable language, and is understood by men of all races and tongues. Gesture is our most instinctive language; at least it goes back to the beginning of all communication when the race, still lacking articulate speech, could express only through the tones of inarticulate sounds and through movements.
Imagine the powerful communication you attain when, at the proper moment, your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine.
You attain a powerful communication moment when your voice, your gestures, your movement, and your expressions combine and align with the message and your visual aids to wash over your audience, suffusing them with emotion and energy. Be spare with your gestures and be direct.
Make them count.
You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.