Ever have this happen: you walked to the front of the room to give your presentation and suddenly began to wonder, why do I have hands? What should I do with my hands while giving my presentation? Why won’t my hands go away? Why are my hands so damn needy right now?
You probably don’t think about your hands very often. You use them all the time. You just don’t think about them. Until you get in front of the room to give a presentation. Then, if you’re like a lot of people, you suddenly wonder why you have hands, why they feel so awkward, so out of place, so heavy. What do you do with them?
Believe it or not, you probably have to trick them.
Your hands are one of the ways adrenaline gets out of your body. That’s why when you get to the front of the room, they can suddenly seem to have a mind, an energy, and a weight of their own. It feels like your hands have started to mutiny. They suddenly seem to take up way too much space and far too much of your attention.
If this happens to you here are a few simple strategies to help get your hands under control and make sure your hand movements come across as natural and not over-rehearsed and mechanical.
- Walk around a little.
- Adrenaline gets out of your body through your hands, but it also gets out through your feet. By walking around a little, you can redirect the adrenaline to exit through your feet. It takes some of the energy out of your hands if you have overactive hands in a presentation.
- Walking around puts your entire body in motion. When everything is moving, your hands won’t feel quite as distracting as they can when they’re the only part of your body that moving.
- Hold something.
- If your hands feel fidgety, hold a pen, a marker, or if you’re using PowerPoint, a remote.
- If you are using a flipchart in your presentation, it makes sense for you to use a marker or dry erase marker. Squeeze the marker as you first get started. No one will notice and you’ll actually help calm down your hands by giving one of them something to do.
- Be careful of how you hold the remote. If your hands get twitchy, you might start hitting the advance or return buttons and get out of sync with your slides.
- Use your hands to get the audience involved.
- Take the attention off your hands and put the attention on your audience. Use your hands to poll the audience: “How many of you have had this type of situation…” And as you ask the question, raise your hand.
- Use your hands to direct traffic in the room. “A couple of housekeeping items, restrooms are down the hallway (indicate which direction with one of your hands).”
- Use your hands the way a conductor uses a baton. “I want everyone to stand up (raise both of your hands from your waist to over your head). “How about a show of hands (raise yours); how many of you have…”
If you can get your hands—along with the rest of your body—moving early in your presentation, your hands will soon feel more natural and less distracting. One note of caution: when moving and using your hands be careful to keep them away from your face. Touching or blocking your face with your hands can become irritating to the audience.
Give it a try. Turn your hands into an ally instead of an enemy. Put them to use. If you do, they’ll stop pestering you for attention.