Many presenters ask what gestures they should use and how they can use body language to persuade their audience of their proposal.
But actually, the key thing to remember with gestures is: Don’t overthink them too much.
Gestures work far better when they’re natural, and in keeping with the presentation. Exaggerated theatrical gestures are not only unnecessary and impractical, but they can actually leave a presenter looking a little bit ridiculous. And if there’s one thing that can harm a presenter’s credibility, it’s the audience thinking he or she looks ridiculous.
So what type of gestures do work well?
The best way to use gestures is to interact with your visuals, to bring your content to life. Don’t rehearse unnatural movements that involve you standing and looking at your audience. You want to draw the audience’s attention to the charts, images and diagrams that your designers have put so much time and effort into making effective. Point to things as you talk about them. If something on screen grows, echo this growth with your hands. If an object moves from one side of the screen to another, follow its movement. If you want to emphasise a particular figure, use a hand to underline it.
Pointing at the audience can work when it feels appropriate, but don’t overdo it. If you find yourself frequently pointing at those you are pitching to, you may be working too hard. Similarly, don’t point to yourself – you shouldn’t be talking about yourself or your company anyway! A sales presentation is about what you can offer your prospect. Audience members don’t care about you; they care about what you can offer them – which is outlined in the proof points on your visuals.
In sum: Be natural and focus on your content. You’ll find yourself making the most effective gestures without even trying.