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Use Your Hand Gestures To Your Advantage

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In competitive situations we’re always looking for something to give us an advantage over our competition. We sometimes go to great lengths to find any tiny competitive “edge.” What if the secret to our success was, literally, in our hands?

Most often we’re not consciously aware of the effect of gestures. Instinctively, we perceive that speakers who use their hands in discourse works. We see it every day, everywhere — from politicians, pastors and seasoned public speakers. But oftentimes we don’t know how to use our own hands effectively to boost our chances of success.

When interviewing for a job, pitching an idea to our boss, or competing for a new potential client, our hand gestures can help us make a winning impression. They can give added emphasis on our position, punctuate our point of view, or add pizzazz to our pitch in such ways that people will be motivated to say “yes.”

There’s even science to back up this claim: Professor Joep Cornelissen at Erasmus University in Rotterdam undertook an experiment to analyze gestures in video-recorded entrepreneurial pitches to investors. The videos with frequent use of hand gestures were 12-percent more likely to attract investors.

Especially in this age of video conferencing, when only our head and torso are framed on the screen, we will better engage our audience when we allow our hand gestures to help communicate our message.

Here are just a few of the several gestures that you can adopt to increase your chances of success.

1. Show confidence while holding a pinch of salt.

One gesture that can increase your chances of speaking is “the pinch of salt.” To make this gesture, hold your fist in front of you so you are looking down at the thumb side of your hand. Relax your top finger and your thumb and bring the tips of these fingers together as if they’re delicately holding a pinch of salt. Keep the rest of your fingers curled in a relaxed fist. On key words when speaking, use this hand gesture to affirm key points.

This is a popular gesture for politicians. Barack Obama used it 93 times in his first inauguration speech. His gesture asserted confidence in his plans for his presidency.

2. Open your palm to invite participation.

An open palm gesture communicates an invitation for connection. Imagine that you’re a team leader assigning a new project in a meeting and your team members are listening intently. As you wrap up, opening your palms will indicate that you’d like feedback on what you just shared.  

Using an open palm gesture conveys your openness to your audience’s response, and also gives what you’re saying an emotional dimension of your wish to invite their involvement.

3. Add animation to your gestures.

Another way you can use your hands to provide emphasis is through animated gestures. When you wish to make a strong point, allow your hands to literally “draw” the picture. You can illustrate something small by showing a small gap between your hands. You can indicate steady growth by bringing your hands apart slowing — or show rapid expansion by moving them apart quickly.

Making these illustrative gestures helps an audience “see” the points you’re making and become more convinced by what you’re saying through your delivery. 

To increase your chance for a successful outcome from a presentation, incorporate hand gestures to connect to the listener, drive home your points, and portray your conviction in the message.

Martin Brooks is an experienced communication coach and trainer. In his consultancy practice, he applies his expertise in the reading of body language to help in better understanding others as well as communicating more effectively. His body language analysis has been aired on the BBC, LBC Radio and the Discovery Channel. His new product, “Body Language Decoder,” includes 50 illustrated cards that reveal what others are really thinking. Learn more at successthroughimpact.com.

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