Category Archives: Gesture

Presidential Presenting?

Given that this election year has seen a raft of awful would-beEspecially Powerful presidential presenting presidential presenting, I devote to this space the second evaluation of the two political parties’ nominees.

In this case, the winner.

President-elect Donald Trump offers one of the strangest speaking styles I’ve ever witnessed on the public stage.

It combines odd gestures, rhetorical discontinuities, and counter-intuitive inflections to flummox even the most partisan viewer.

I said in another space six months ago that Mr. Trump could be our first post-modern candidate.  Nothing has changed that would cause me to modify this observation.

His repetition, flights of fancy, strange interjections at inappropriate moments, and infuriating inability to complete a thought all combine with a menu of off-putting gestures.

Gestures for Presidential Presenting?

Mr. Trump, like all public speakers, has a go-to gesture that sustains him on the stump.  President Obama’s go-to gesture is the “lint-pick.”

He uses with aplomb and quite often.

especially powerful
The Obama Lint-Pick, his signature gesture for especially powerful presidential presenting

The “Lint Pick” is an excellent choice to exhibit precision and attention to detail.  It gives the impression to an audience that you are sharing something minute yet important.

You cull out the telling point that brings everything together, and Mr. Obama has adopted this for his personal brand.

Mr. Trump’s signature gesture is what someone in a national magazine labeled the “Dainty Mobster Thing.”

In an Atlantic article by James Parker, the author observed Mr. Trump’s “dainty mobster thing he does with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.”

Dainty Mobster is simply a version of the Lint-Pick that we’ve seen the President and many others use for years.

Especially Powerful Dainty Mobster
Signature Gesture . . . the Dainty Mobster, which is similar to the lint-pick

This version, however, is certainly something I’ve never seen anyone else use except occasionally and to a specific purpose.

Mr. Trump uses Dainty Mobster repeatedly.

When we talk about public speaking, particularly that with a high stakes element, it’s always useful to go to the film to evaluate the product.

So, let’s have a look at a speech that I annotate to call attention to speaking tics that detract from the public presentation message.

Aspiring speakers should not imitate this particular style, although unique it may be and with seemingly grandiose results.  Nor should one imitate the opposing candidate, Mrs. Clinton, as we saw in our previous post.

In fact, few political figures in our time offer styles that can teach us much of anything.  One of the few articulate speakers of a new political generation is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, but his is an occasional case.

For especially powerful speakers worthy of emulation, the finest Hollywood actors offer us a strong example of how to combine emotion with substance in a powerful persuasive performance.

But then, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do.

For more on powerful presentations, consult the book The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

Stop Busy Fingers Sabotage!

Don't engage in busy fingers
Stop those Busy Fingers!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit, and one of these is Busy Fingers.

Proper gesture in your presentation means controlling those aimless actions your body takes on its own . . . because of habit or nerves.

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 Busy Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

Or 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.  And so their fingers get busy on their own – Busy Fingers.

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.

Especially Powerful Gesture

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.

Harmonize.

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, and they gain power.

Make them count for an especially powerful business presentation.

You’ll find more on correcting the bad presentation habit of busy fingers in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Powerful Presentation Body Language

presentation body language
Good gestures are more than a garnish for your presentation . . . presentation body language is essential to taking your show to the professional level

What is Body Language, and why worry about business presentation body language at all?

When we talk about body language in presentations, we really mean three distinct techniques – stance (or how we consciously position our bodies on-stage), expression (how we consciously utilize our facial expressions to enhance our meaning), and gesture (what we do with our hands to communicate).

In this post, let’s focus on gesture.

Gesture a Body Language Add-on?

Is gesture just some sort of garnish for the presentation?  Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation?

Has anyone ever broken down the elements of body language for you to explain what’s good and what’s bad?  What adds to and what subtracts from your show?

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance.

You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume, from your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

Body Language
Especially Powerful Gesture

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior body language messaging.

So what’s a Gesture?

It’s a wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side in a universal embrace.

A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.  A balled fist at the proper moment.  These are all part of presentation body language that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.

Transmitting Visuals

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This results from the presence of the speaker.

An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

presentation body language
Especially powerful presentation body language is the tool of the finest presenters

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.

It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Gestures provide energy and accent.

They add power.  They add emphasis and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture.  At the proper time.

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott‘s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.

It is certainly too important to dismiss with the breezy trope you occasionally hear:  “Move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today: “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

As part of your presentation body language repertoire, gesture should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words.  From the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or without a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us naturally to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.

It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.

You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power.  And on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Presentation body language
Presentation Body Language is especially powerful when coordinated with a strongly articulated message

For if you don’t begin to think in grand terms about yourself and your career, you remain mired in the mud.

Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.  As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.

Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations.

Movements that 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.

It’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

This is a 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 motions.  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.

Presentation Body Language

Why would you want to “gesture” during your business presentation?

Aren’t your words enough without resorting to presentation body language?

Frankly, words are not enough.

Gestures add force to your points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal such presentation body language?

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 in superb presentation body language.

You attain an especially powerful presentation 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 your presentation body language count, and you can gain incredible competitive advantage.

For more on presentation body language, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret #3 – Powerful Presentation Gesture

What is presentation gesture, and why do we worry about it at all?

It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation.

Presentation Gesture
Incorporate Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture for Competitive Advantage

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection.  From your volume.

From your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.

A scratch of the chin.

Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These are all gestures that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Destroy your presentation.

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This is a result of the presence of the speaker.

Presentation Gesture
What Kind of Presentation Gesture?

An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.  Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Whether the percentage is accurate or not, undoubtedly, gestures provide energy, and accent.

They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.

Especially Powerful Presentation Mastery

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:  “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

Gesture in your presentation should be natural. It flows from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.

Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.  You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose.  They can imbue your presentation with power.

On rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, “majesty of epic proportions.”

Especially Powerful Presentation Gesture
The Power of Presentation Gesture is always underestimated

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.

In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.  Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our presentations, we are left with aimless ejaculations that can distract and leech away the power of our message and the audience’s confidence in our competence.

Accordingly, here are several 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 is a 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 motions.

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.

The Power of Presentation Gesture

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

To add force to your 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 carries 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 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.

Look for more detailed analysis on the gestures available to you in this space in coming days.

Next up . . . Secret #4

More Power Posing for Powerful Business Presentations

Power Posing for Confidence
Power Posing as Wonder Woman

Anyone who has come to this space for any length of time knows that I extol the work of Dr. Amy Cuddy in helping us to learn power posing for our business presentations.

Her now-famous 2010 Harvard study of MBAs demonstrates conclusively that we can, indeed, control our emotions to a certain extent with regard to our delivery of business presentations.

In short, we can make ourselves feel confident and powerful . . . just by striking a powerful pose.

This is heady stuff, and Dr. Cuddy herself explains the process in the video below.

Power Posing Works

Dr. Cuddy’s findings are revolutionary to the extent that she substantially confirms a theory of emotions developed more than a century ago and since discarded for supposedly more au courant notions.  Psychologists William James and Carl Lange conceived of a new way of understanding our emotions and how they work.

They reversed the prevailing dynamic this way . . .

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language, and we ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.

Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?

What if we could engage in power posing and create our own confidence?

Power Posing can Create Confidence?

Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

And Dr. Amy Cuddy’s research proves it.  Have a look . . . 

 

Dr. Cuddy offers powerful instruction for us in the realm of nonverbal communication and in the area of self-motivation and inculcation of power-generating behavior.

But . . .

There are aspects of this video that are instructive in verbal communication as well.

As a caveat, lest we learn other less salutary lessons from the video, I call attention to aspects of Dr. Cuddy’s unfortunate verbal delivery.

This is not to gratuitously disparage Dr. Cuddy, for I am one of her biggest fans, and I advocate her approach to power posing whenever and wherever I speak.

Let’s learn a few things about verbal delivery from the video.

Three Tics to Eliminate

First, her voice often collapses at the end of sentences into a growl-like vocal fry.  This results from pinching off the flow of air before finishing a sentence, delivering the last syllables in a kind of grind.

Second, Dr. Cuddy engages frequently in uptalk.  This is a verbal tic that pronounces declarative sentences as if they are questions or as if they are statements in doubt.  It consists of running the last word or syllable in a sentence up in tone instead of letting it drop decisively.  The difference to the ear is dramatic, with uptalk conveying self-doubt, indecision, a quest for validation.

Third, Dr. Cuddy unconsciously laces her talk with words such as “like” and “you know” as filler.  Perhaps to maintain a steady drumbeat of verbiage?  Who knows the reason people use these crutches.

Eliminate these fillers from your own talks to gain power and decisiveness.  Instead of fillers, use silence.  Develop the technique of pausing instead of filling every second of your talk with noise.

And so . . . learn the lessons of power posing and engage them in your presentations to imbue them with energy.  But eliminate the verbal tics that can leech away that energy from your talk.

For more on power posing and the confidence you can gain, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Stop the Bad Presentation Habit of Finger-play

Bad Presentation Habit
Stop the Bad Presentation Habit!

In the absence of clear instruction, we can develop a bad presentation habit.

Or two . . . or three.

Take gesture.

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.

Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations
Presentation Gesture for Powerful Business Presentations

What is presentation gesture, and why worry about it at all?

It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something nice to have, but unessential to the point of our business presentation.

The fact is that you can’t separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume.  From your nuance.

And you can’t separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.  And, if we’re good, improve our personal competitive advantage by way of especially powerful presentations.

What’s a Presentation Gesture?

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.  Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.”

Let’s understand what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:

“Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

A wave of the hand.  A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.  A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.  An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These presentation gestures can either enhance or destroy your presentation.  Yes, destroy.  Herky-jerky moves, odd nervous dancing, strange finger-tugging, aimless pacing, injudiciously timed gesticulations – all of these can undermine an otherwise outstanding verbal performance.

Especially Powerful Gesture

Professional presentation coaches understand that much of the information transmitted in a show is visual.

This results from the presence of the speaker.  Because of this, an audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

Presentation Gesture
Presentation Gesture can be subtle . . . or expansive.

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience.  She contends that “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

We can quibble over the exact parsing of how much communication is verbal and how much nonverbal.  But there’s no doubt that gestures inject energy and accent to our business presentations.They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words.

Presentation Gesture in History

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time.  Entire books, in fact, have been penned about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.

See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Ott contends that gesture in your presentation should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

And we never gesture idly, without a point to make.

Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It is false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Presentation Gesture for Personal Competitive Advantage
Presentation Gesture for Power and Impact

You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power.  Gesture forms a substantial part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication, and on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

In short, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

For more on presentation gesture, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.

 

 

 

Presentation Power Posing: “I feel especially powerful today!”

Power Posing
Power Posing Yields Presentation Confidence

I don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering business students, but one power posing exercise that elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

It consists of everyone standing up and then striking a confident stance.  Feet are shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.

This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Posing Personified

Then visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, which indicate a robust embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.  Second, the exercise achieves superb physiological goals that improve many characteristics associated with business presenting.

Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.  Power Posing.

Body Language
Power Posing
Power Posing Carries Gravitas

We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message.  Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.  Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message, and power posing is some of the most effective body language you can use.

But it is essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood.  It’s a secret that I’ve use with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.  Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:

“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion.  Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.  The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …

Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth.  We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”

And if you aren’t satisfied with the narrative of a 19th Century social scientist you never heard of, then take the theory of Charles Darwin, who in 1872 was one of the first to speculate that your body posture can have an effect of generating emotions rather than simply reflecting them.

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.  On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions . . . .  Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.

So how does this relate to powerful business presenting?

Every way you can think of.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language.  We ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright.  Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that.  Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?

Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

Turn Negative Energy into Positive with Power Posing

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

Power Posing
Power Posing is a critical component of Confidence and Charisma

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.  Consciously strike a pose that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.  This is power posing.

This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”

No, there’s no catch.  And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.

Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Management would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.

A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others.  The Kellogg study early this year yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous that power posing can actually imbue us with power.

Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power and yourself with professional presence.  In our 21st Century vernacular, power posing means you should stand the way you want to feel.

Power posing – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery in ways you’ve likely not imagined.

Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.

The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.  Square your shoulders.  Fix a determined look on your face.

Speak loudly and distinctly.

Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.

Seize the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

For more especially powerful guidance on power posing, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Recover when you Lose Train of Thought

Lose train of thought?
When you lose train of thought, Consider the Venerable Chin-Scratch

You’re in the midst of an especially powerful presentation when you lose train of thought and give that deer-in-headlights stare.That’s what happens when Blank-Mind strikes.

You’re on a roll, really jazzing the audience.

And then . . . your mind wanders for a brief moment.

It was just a moment, but it was enough to sabotage you.

Your thoughts grind to a halt and you can’t remember what to say.  Words fail you.

You Lose Train of Thought

Blank-Mind attacks all of us at one point or another during our business presentation career.

In fact, it happens so often that it might do us good to think ahead to how we react to this common presentation malady.

Presenters have developed trade tricks to help us past the rough spots.  Here is one stopgap solution for when you lose train of thought.

When Blank-Mind strikes, your first reaction should be a calm academic assessment of the situation – you know what’s happened, and you already know what your first action will be.  You have prepared for this.

Pause.

Let silence grip the room.

The Especially Powerful Chin-scratch

Look slightly upward and raise your right hand to your chin, holding your hand in a semi-fist with chin perched and resting on your index finger and thumb – perhaps with your index finger curled comfortably around your chin.

You know the posture.

Put your left hand on your hip.  Furrow your brow as if deep in thought, which you are.

Now, while looking steadily at the floor or slightly upward at the ceiling, walk slowly in a diagonal approximately four, maybe five steps and stop, feet shoulder-width apart.

Now, assume your basic ready position and look up at your audience.

Your Bought Time

You have just purchased a good 10 seconds to regain your confidence and composure, to regain your thought pattern, and to cobble together your next few sentences.  If this brief respite was not enough to reset yourself, then shift to the default statement.

It's not the end of the world if you lose train of thought.
If You’re Thinking, then Look Thoughtful

What do I mean “default statement?”

This is a rescue phrase that you craft  beforehand to get you back into your speaking groove.  It consists of something like this:  “Let me recapitulate our three points – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Other phrases might be: “Now is probably a good time to look again at our main themes . . .”  or “We can see again that the issue boils down to the three crucial points that I began with . . .”

And then, you simply begin ticking off your three or four main points of your presentation.  In doing so, you trigger thought processes that put you back onto the correct path.

Think of this method as levering a derailed train back onto the track.

If you have prepared as you should, then it should be no more than a small bump in the road for you to lose train of thought.  A minor nuisance with minimal damage.

If you panic, however, it can balloon into something monstrous.

Remember the rescue techniques:  Chin-scratch and Default Statement.

You can control the damage by utilizing the Chin-scratch, which buys you time to reassert yourself.  Failing that, the Default Statement can bail you out by taking you back over familiar material you’ve just covered.

If none of the above works, however, you can still stop yourself from going into total meltdown by using the two rescue words I preach to all my students . . .

“In conclusion . . .”

For more rescue techniques in the toughest parts of your presentation, including when you lose train of thought, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Gesture – Video

Reagan Gestured like a Master. So Should You.

Why would you want to “gesture?”  Aren’t your words enough?

We gesture to add force to our points, to slam home the major theme of our presentation.

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.  Speaking Master James Winans noted in 1915 that this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

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.

Another Arrow in Your Quiver

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.  You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can pack power into your presentation.  On rare occasion, they can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

Your careful, thoughtful gestures increase your talk’s persuasiveness and lend gravitas to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to an especially powerful level, a level far above the mundane.

You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.  Let’s look at some examples . . .

Presentation Body Language – Gesture for Power

presentation body language
Good gestures are more than a garnish for your presentation . . . presentation body language is essential to taking your show to the professional level

What is gesture, and why worry about business presentation body language at all?

Gesture is nothing more than an add-on, right?

Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation.

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance.  You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume, from your nuance.

And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.

What’s a Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side in a universal embrace.

A scratch of the chin.  Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.  A balled fist at the proper moment.  These are all part of presentation body language that can either enhance or destroy your presentation.

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual.  This results from the presence of the speaker.  An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation.

presentation body language
Especially powerful presentation body language is the tool of the finest presenters

Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal.  It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Gestures provide energy and accent.  They add power.  They add emphasis and meaning to our words.

Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture.  At the proper time.

Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow.  But most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered.  See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott‘s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance.

It is certainly too important to dismiss with the breezy trope you occasionally hear:  “Move around when you talk.”  Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today: “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

As part of your presentation body language repertoire, gesture should be natural.  It should flow from the meaning of your words.  From the meaning you wish to convey with your words.

We never gesture without reason or without a point to make.  Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us naturally to gesture.  Without emotion, gesture is mechanical.  It’s false.  It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication.

You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power.  And on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Presentation body language
Presentation Body Language is especially powerful when coordinated with a strongly articulated message

For if you don’t begin to think in grand terms about yourself and your career, you’ll remain mired in the mud.  Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane.

You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way.  Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our business presentations, we’re left with aimless ejaculations.  Movements that 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.  It’s the equivalent of self-sabotage.

Control Those Fingers!

Under no circumstances engage in “finger play.”

This is a 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 motions.  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.

Presentation Body Language

Why would you want to “gesture” during your business presentation?  Aren’t your words enough without resorting to presentation body language?

Frankly, words are not enough.

Gestures add force to your points.  To demonstrate honesty, decisiveness, humility, boldness, even fear.  A motion toward the door, a shrug, a lifted eyebrow – what words can equal such presentation body language?

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 in superb presentation body language.  You attain an especially powerful presentation 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 your presentation body language count.

For more on presentation body language, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

CLASSIC: “I feel especially powerful today!”

I truly don’t mean to be a pain to my long-suffering students, but one exercise that elicits more scorn than it deserves is called “Especially Powerful.”

It consists of everyone rising to a standing position and striking a confident stance with feet shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched to either side, palms turned upward.

Picture it.  This is a critical and powerful pose.

Power Personified

Then visualize a slight tilt of the head up and, in unison and in the best tradition of the deep-voiced Darth Vader, everyone repeats after me . . . “I feel especially powerful today!”

Several times.

“I feel especially powerful today!”

I’m not satisfied until the room reverberates with the appropriate tone and volume, indicating a robust and vibrant embrace of the exercise and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Which is . . . what?

Why do I engage in what, to some, might appear gimmicky or cute?

First, I don’t do cute.  Second, the exercise accomplishes several superb physiological goals that improve a range of characteristics associated with business presenting.

Voice . . . stance . . . posture . . . confidence . . . poise.

In short, much of what we call body language.

Body Language

We hear in some circles that nonverbal communication – your body language – comprises more than 50 percent of your message. Some studies contend that it comprises more than 70 percent.

For no other reason than this, we should be concerned with the messages we transmit with our posture, our expressions, our gestures.  Yes, body language is critical to conveying your message.

But it is essential for another equally important reason.

It’s a reason not generally well-known or understood, and it constitutes a secret that I’ve utilized with my presentation students for years to invest them with confidence and new-found presentation power.  Its core idea stretches back well more than a century, to one of the world’s first theories of emotion: James-Lange Theory.

William James and the Danish physiologist Carl G. Lange developed the theory independently of each other in the 1880s.

Here’s a taste of the real thing from Mr. James himself:

“My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion.  Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.  The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble …

Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth.  We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry.”

And if you aren’t satisfied with the narrative of a 19th Century social scientist you never heard of, then take the theory of Charles Darwin, who in 1872 was one of the first to speculate that your body posture can have an effect of generating emotions rather than simply reflecting them.

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.  On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions . . . .  Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.

So what does this have to do with powerful business presenting?

Everything.

We generally believe that our emotions affect our body language, and we ourselves have experienced the effects of stage fright. Emotions influence the way you stand, the way you appear to your audience.  They influence what you say and how you say it.

So if we feel stage fright and lack of confidence, our body language telegraphs that. Moreover, once we become conscious of the effects of our fears, they worsen, and we get caught in a downward spiral of cause-and-effect.

But what if we could reverse that cause-and-effect?  What if we could, say, strike a confident pose and suddenly find ourselves infused with confidence?  Impossible, eh?

But James-Lange Theory suggests that very thing, that you can reverse the process.

Turn Negative Energy into Positive

You can use your gestures, movement, posture, and expression to influence your emotions.  You can consciously affect body language associated with the emotion you want to experience – namely, confidence – and so gain confidence.

This means that we should lay the groundwork for our emotions to reflect our body language and our posture.  Consciously strike a bearing that reflects the confident and powerful speaker you want to be.

This may sound too easy and leave you asking “what’s the catch?”

No, there’s no catch.  And now that recent research has scientifically confirmed the dynamic I just described, the secret is out.

Several theories later and after many attempts to debunk James-Lange Theory, the most recent research at Harvard University and the Kellogg School of Business would seem to give Mr. James and Mr. Lange the proverbial last laugh.

A 2010 Harvard study substantiated James-Lange Theory and found that power posing substantially increases confidence in people who assume them while interacting with others. The Kellogg study early this year yielded the same findings.

In short, the way you stand or sit either increases or decreases your confidence.  The study’s conclusion is unambiguous and speaks directly to us.

Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders — elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

This finding holds tremendous significance for you if you want to imbue your presentations with power.  In our 21st Century vernacular, this means you should stand the way you want to feel. Posing with power – “I feel especially powerful today!” – improves your entire presentation delivery tremendously and in ways you’ve likely not imagined.

Power Posing can flood your system with testosterone and can suppress stress-related cortisol, so you actually do invest yourself with confidence and relieve the acute anxiety that presentations sometimes generate.

The lesson here is to affect the posture of confidence.  Square your shoulders.  Fix a determined look on your face.  Speak loudly and distinctly.

Extend your arms to either side and take up lots of space.

Seize the emotional energy flow and make it work for you.

And remember . . .

“I feel especially powerful today!”

For especially powerful guidance on delivering a sterling presentation every time, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Presentation Gestures

Presentation gesture can be powerful

Why would you want to “gesture?”

Aren’t your words enough without getting into presentation gestures?

No, not nearly enough.

We gesture to add force to our points.

Presentation Gestures Add Power

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, presentation gesture can carry powerful meaning.  It should carry powerful meaning.  Speaking Master James Winans noted in 1915 that this form of nonverbal language predates spoken language.

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.

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication. You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can pack your presentation with power.  And on rare occasion, can imbue your business presentation with majesty of epic proportions.

Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

Your careful, thoughtful presentation gestures increase your talk’s persuasiveness and lend gravitas to your words.  In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to an especially powerful level, a level far above the mundane. You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

Presentation gesture offers a powerful means to enhance your presentation’s depth and meaning, communicating with far more power than words alone.

Let’s look at some examples . . .

So we can see that presentation gestures can increased the impact of your business presentation.  For more on presentation gesture, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Secret # 3 – Your Gestures

What is gesture, and why do we worry about it at all?  It’s nothing more than an add-on, right?  Something perhaps nice to have, but unessential to the point of our presentation.

The fact is that you cannot separate sincerity from your appearance. You can’t disaggregate movement from your inflection, from your volume, from your nuance. And you cannot separate your words from gesture.

So let’s add the power of gesture to our words to achieve superior messaging.

What’s a Gesture?

A wave of the hand.

A snap of the finger.

A stride across the stage with arms outstretched to either side.

A scratch of the chin.

Crossed arms.

An accusatory finger.

A balled fist at the proper moment.

These are all gestures that can either enhance or destroy your presentation. Yes, I said destroy.

Professional presentation coaches understand that most of the information transmitted in a show is visual. This is a result of the presence of the speaker. An audio recording of a talk is not nearly as powerful as an actual live presentation. Executive coach Lynda Paulson is spot-on when she notes the power of gestures to persuade an audience . . . or to alienate an audience, because “at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal. It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions.”

Gestures provide energy, and accent. They add power, emphasis, and meaning to our words. Throughout the history of public speaking, the finest communicators have known the importance of the proper gesture at the proper time. Entire books, in fact, have been written about gesture and the power it can bestow, but most of this knowledge resides in the recesses of libraries waiting to be rediscovered. See, for example, Edward Amherst Ott’s classic 1902 book How to Gesture.

Gesture is too important to leave to chance. Certainly too important to dismiss with the airy “move around when you talk.” Let’s understand exactly what it means.

In 1928, Joseph Mosher defined gesture in a way that guides us even today:  “Gesture may be broadly defined as visible expression, that is, any posture or movement of the head, face, body, limbs or hands, which aids the speaker in conveying his message by appealing to the eye.”

Gesture in your presentation should be natural. It should flow from the meaning of your words and the meaning you wish to convey with your words. We never gesture without reason or a point to make. Typically, the emotion and energy in a talk leads us to gesture. Without emotion, gesture is mechanical. It is false. It feels and looks artificial.

Communicating Without Words

Gesture is part of our repertoire of non-verbal communication. You have many arrows in the quiver of gesture from which to choose, and they can imbue your presentation with power. And on rare occasion, can imbue your presentation with majesty of epic proportions. Yes, I said “majesty of epic proportions.”

For if you do not begin to think in grand, expansive terms about yourself and your career, you will remain mired in the mud. Stuck at the bottom.

Proper gesture increases your talk’s power and lends emphasis to your words. In fact, gesture is essential to take your presentation to a superior level, a level far above the mundane. You limit yourself if you do not gesture effectively as you present.

As with every craft, there is a correct way to gesture . . . and a wrong way. Without a clear notion of how gesture can enhance our presentations, we are left with aimless ejaculations that can 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 is a 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 motions. 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.

The Power of Gesture

Why would you want to “gesture?” Aren’t your words enough? To add force to your 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.

Look for more detailed analysis on the gestures available to you in this space in coming weeks.