The Power is in Your Hands

Member news | November 08, 2021

When you talk in public, your hands can help you to express your thoughts. They have a direct impact on what the listener hears.

"Hand gestures are really a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker's and the listener's end," says Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, body language expert and author of “The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work and The Silent Language of Leaders.

People who "talk" with their hands tend to be viewed as warm and energetic, while those who are less animated are seen as logical, cold, and analytical.

According to Dr. Kinsey Goman, "Gesturing can help people form clearer thoughts, speak in tighter sentences, and use more declarative language."

Used strategically, right-hand gestures influence the way certain words are heard by your audience.

You can power up your thinking with the help of your gestures but you must be aware that our speech and our gestures don’t always match up.

Speaking with your hands can show your emotions more than you want, and alter the perception of your character. Certain hand gestures can signal extraversion and dominance, and they are linked to the perception of authority.

It is not easy to figure out how to use the right gestures that reinforce our verbal message.

Here are some simple tips to make gestures in full agreement with the spoken words:

  • Do what comes naturally. Don’t try to create a complicated choreography with your gestures that would make you forget your speech.
  • Never begin a speech with your hands hidden in your pockets.
  • Keep your hand movements descriptive but stay calm and don’t gesticulate too much.
  • Keep objects out of your hands even if it is recomforting to have a pen or a piece of paper.
  • Use open-palm gestures to build the audience’s trust. It means “No weapons” all around the world. You have nothing to hide.
  • Keep your hands below your head. Don’t go too wide or too high with your arms. It can be distracting. 
  • Avoid pointing. It can look aggressive.
  • Be careful not to make repetitive gestures, it can be annoying and boring for the audience.
  • Avoid “spider hands”, touching the fingertips can look tense and stressed. You are not Angela Merkel!
  • You have the right to briefly drop your hands to your sides.

Do you want to have a strong connection with your audience? Practice your hand gestures at the same time as your speech before your next presentation. And remember, research shows that audiences tend to view people who use a greater variety of gestures in a more favorable light.

Muriel Omur Ilbas is a former TV producer and anchorwoman, a communication expert with 20 years of management consulting, 16 years of training services, and 11 years of executive coaching experience.

She has worked with more than 150 global companies including Pepsi, British American Tobacco, Coca Cola, L’Oréal, Limagrain, Lesaffre, Total, Peugeot, Groupama, Louis Vuitton, Basf, Roche, Glaxo, and Novartis.

Her company, LSWUS Consulting, LLC, based in the U.S., provides a broad variety of online and in-person services in consulting, coaching, training, mentoring, and crisis management for expat managers and international students living in the US.

She provides intercultural coaching and public speaking services under her brand: Your Coach in America.