You're walking across the stage – about to give a presentation to a hundred people.
Your content is solid and your outfit's on point.
Then suddenly you think: what do I do with my hands?
Clasp them behind your back? Next to your sides? Cover your crotch? (Hint: NO!)
No matter what you do with them, you feel awkward.
If you've ever asked yourself this, keep reading. Today I'm going to explain exactly what to do with your hands when you're talking, walking, or any time you're trying to signal confidence and power.
People look at your hands, head, and feet more than any other body parts – so they WILL notice. Here's how to make sure they'll like what they see.
So why is it so important to use your hands when you talk? A 2005 study coming out of the University of Rome found people are more likely to listen to you when you're using your hands – and they're more likely to be able to hear, understand, and remember your words.
Hand gestures also help you add emphasis to what you're saying and express your state of mind.
Best Practices For Hand Gestures
Nervous about giving a presentation? If you're prone to fiddle when you're nervous, try holding something – maybe a clicker to go through the slides, or a pen or laser pointer to point with. Don't overuse the laser pointer, though – that little red dot distracts humans as well as cats.
So how many gestures per minute should you make during a presentation or conversation? 10 is a bit low – 40 is a bit high.
A study by Science of People found that the best TEDx speakers average 26 gestures per minute.
And how big should your gestures be? Imagine a box about 36 inches wide and 24 inches high around your upper body. This is the box that you want your hand gestures to fit into. If you go outside the box you look like a weirdo – if you have no gestures at all you look like a robot.
(This is an American-sized box – your gesture box will be bigger or smaller depending on where you live.)
10 BEST Hand Gestures For Men
1. Open Hands
This is all about honesty – showing your hands, and showing that you have nothing in your hands, means that you're not going to attack the other person.
2. Open Arms
This is showing you've got nothing to hide. Open arms signal, ‘I want to bring you in, I am open to your ideas.' Again, don't overdo this or you'll look like a weirdo.
3. Fist Pump
This is about signaling victory, or saying, ‘Oh yeah!' when something good just happened. It's about emphasis and sending a signal of strong emotion.
4. Hand Rubbing
This is all about plotting – it suggests you're up to no good, or at least that you're thinking about something sneaky. The wheels are turning.
5. Hand On Heart
This is the opposite of sneaky – showing that you are sincere, that what you're saying is coming from a place of sincerity and genuineness.
6. ‘Stop' Gestures
A palm held vertically out in front of you clearly means, ‘Halt! Don't come any closer! Stop what you're doing! I'm interrupting you!' This is a powerful signal – be very careful with this one, as it can come off as rude.
This one you want to be careful with as well – people don't like it when you point at them. But if you're talking to a group and you want to get the point across, you can point up a bit or point down, and often this gets the audience to look in a specific direction.
8. This Versus That
I've used this in a number of videos because I do a lot of comparisons. Quite often I weigh my options and advise you on how to wear yours, whether you're deciding on which job to take or That's what we're doing here – we're being very clear that there is something over here and then there's something over here and they are very different.
9. Tiny Versus Big
Popular in fishing stories, yes? “The mackerel I caught last Saturday was THIIIIIIIIIIS big!” Again, it gets the point across and helps people remember – especially useful in a story when you're trying to entertain or audience.
10. Spread Fingers, A.K.A. Steepling
This gesture signals that you are in charge, calm, and collected. I rarely use this one because it is powerful body language, but I do use the next one quite a bit.
11. ‘Praying' Gestures
I purposely try not to use straight-up praying hands like I'm in church (unless I actually want to send out that symbolism), but what I do do is use clasped hands to emphasize an important point.
5 WORST Hand Gestures For Men
Avoid these if you want to look good, gentlemen. Not too much more to say.
1. Hands On Hips
You want to avoid putting your hands here, because this signals the message that you're being condescending, overbearing, and acting like a parent. No one, least of all your peers (worst still your boss!) likes to be talked down to. Let your words carry their own authority and leave this gesture to nannies and kindergarten teachers.
2. Crossed Arms
This cuts you off from a conversation – it's a defensive pose expressing that you don't want to be a part of what they're doing, you disagree. Not attractive. Even if you DO disagree, this is not how to show it – it's ‘closed body language' that makes you look weak.
3. Hands Behind Back
This makes you look like you're inspecting the troops. Avoid this body language if you're not a drill sergeant. It sends the message that you're aloof and think you're above those around you. Again, not a good move if you're trying to build trust or a good rapport with those around you.
4. Hands Crossed In Front
This gesture makes you look particularly weak and timid. It gives the impression that you're protecting yourself, if you know what I mean. Appears quite juvenile, like a little boy who's just had an accident. That's not you, is it? Hope not!
5. Hands In Pockets
I admit it – I do this. We all do. It's comfortable and makes us feel secure. However, there are good ways and bad ways to put your hands in your pockets. One of the worst things you can do with your hands is put both of them in your pockets fully. Hiding your hands suggests you're insecure, nervous, and even dishonest – that you have something to hide. Do you? If not, hands out!
How to get away with putting your hands in your pockets? Just put one hand in and show your thumb or your fingers.
I prefer exposing the thumb – the fingers are more of a sexual look (hint: look where they're pointing), whereas the thumb is more of a power look.
If you're going to put both hands in your pockets, the best way to do it is to expose the thumb. This gives a relaxed, casual look. If you expose the fingers, the problem is that BOTH hands are pointing right at the crotch, so it's a sexual pose. Not the right message during a business meeting or a presentation.
When you're walking, your hands give you balance. Should you gesture when you're walking? I think it's fine if you've practiced and you know what signals and what message you want to send.
This takes me to my final point – make sure that you control and understand the different finger gestures you're using. Everything we talked about in this article comes down to understanding what you signal with your hands.
Are you sending the right message with yours?
Click below to watch the video – 10 Hand Gestures Every Man Should Know