Presentation Mastery

Presentation Mastery: 9 Gestures that mean a lot

It was so interesting. When an audience member questioned the speaker, he stopped and listened. Then, he turned his back to the questioner, walked as far back on the stage – and as far away from the question as he could get – finally turned back around, crossed his arms in front of his chest and then attempted to answer. What was up with that? It wasn’t like the questioner had a weapon, but by the presenter’s non-verbal response, you knew she lobbed something.

Gestures speak.

Here are 9 ideas to consider to be certain you’re “saying” what you want:

Be real. Don’t add a gesture for the sake of the gesture. Ever.

Leave it. Leave your hair alone, your glasses alone, your notes flat on the table and not rolled up in a cone that you slap into your hand. Don’t play. Don’t distract. Just leave it.

Stand and deliver. When you have an important point, walk to a place where everyone can see you, stop, and deliver your message. Know where you’ll say your main points so you don’t have to scramble to get there.
See them. If you can’t see the people you’re talking to, you’re pretty much talking to yourself. If you’re presenting and walking with your back to your listeners, or while writing and facing a flip chart or white/black board, or while reading your notes, your gestures telegraph a message to your listeners. You aren’t paying attention to them so they’re likely to return the favor.

It’s not ping-pong. Avoid walking back forth back forth back forth. Vary your walking pattern by walking into the audience on your right (or toward that edge of the stage), then honor the people on your left, by walking toward them.

Linger shortly. Let your eyes make contact with a listener just long enough to let that person know that you see him. If you stare at someone while presenting, it’s creepy.

Move away from movement. If someone gets up, move purposefully away from them. No matter how compelling your message is, your listener’s will be distracted by unexpected movement. Keep them with you by surprising with movement of your own.

Nod yes when you mean yes. For some weird reason, some people shake their head in a no pattern, as they say yes. Don’t be weird.

Don’t play Hide and Seek. If you hide a body part (arms across chest, hands in fig leaf position, arm across chest holding other arm, steepeling fingers in front of you, standing behind a lectern, front table, straddling a chair with its back between you and them), your audience tries to seek the truth. Keep yourself open and vulnerable. They’ll like you better.

Presenting powerfully requires a focus on all the messages sent. Help your listeners/buyers/audience/students feel comfortable by aligning your message and your movements.

What gestures make you crazy when you watch a presenter? Blog with me.

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