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.
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
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.