What to do with your hands when presenting.

2 minute read

Your presentation design is killer, your slide content deep and engaging, and your transitions slick and dynamic. Yet somehow, you still aren’t quite delivering your messaging the way you want to be. Maybe its time to take those hands out of your pockets and start making them work for your presentation.

Something as simple as knowing what to do with your hands when presenting forms an important part of your presentation body language. But you don’t need politician-style media training – there are some general principles you can follow to become a better physical communicator.

What to Do with Your Hands When Presenting

There are no hard and fast rules for what to do with your hands when presenting. And like any presentation tool, the way you use your hands will largely depend on the type of presentation you are giving and what comes naturally to you.

Just Relax

Keep your hands relaxed at your sides, and only bring them up to gesture as necessary.

Hand movement during public speaking is something that a lot of people worry about and it’s easy to overthink, but your audience will immediately pick up on any motion that feels forced or insincere. Using your hands for emphasis every now and then looks very natural to your audience and aids your expression.

Impactful Gestures

High-energy presentations may require more powerful movements that motivate your audience and support strong calls to action. When this is the case, think of your hand gestures as visual cues that help you to deliver elements of your story.

Think about the semantics of what you are trying to say and choose an appropriate gesture to reflect this. Talking about how your powerful new strategy will future-proof your business? Extend your arms dynamically to imitate a timeline. Describing how performance had improved? Swing your arm upward when you deliver this information.

Deliberate Motions

So dynamic gesturing is useful for driving points home, but too much of them and you’ll risk appearing all over the place.

Consider calmly extending your arms now and then to help remove barriers between you and your audience, or gently motioning to parts of your slides to emphasise certain information.

This might seem counter-intuitive at first because of adrenaline in your body, but be conscious of your own activity and slow down – this can do wonders for your credibility by making you appear controlled and natural.

Alternate Your Movements

You wouldn’t deliver your entire presentation in the same tone of voice, so think about your hand movements the same way – avoid repetition and keep your audience engaged by varying your gestures at appropriate points.

Mistakes to Avoid

Hands in your pockets can make you appear nervous and unprofessional, and can create the sense that you are static and inward-looking – not the first impression you want to give during a presentation.

Pointing is widely interpreted as being rude in Western cultures and should be avoided. Although this might sound antiquated and stuffy, you don’t want to risk unintentionally adding negative connotations to your messaging – reserve those pointing fingers only for the most direct calls to action.

Fiddling with your face/clothes/hair again signifies nervousness and is also associated with untrustworthiness – be conscious of where your hands are when you’re not using them for effect.

Got any top tips for what to do with your hands when presenting? Let us know on Twitter @Buffalo7.

Buffalo7 is a specialised PowerPoint design agency offering a premium presentation design service. it’s our passion and why we exist, so stay tuned to our blog for professional presentation tips.


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