Presentation Feature: Gestures and body language

What is it?

Non-verbal communication that transfers messages in support or in place of spoken language. Gestures are natural and purposeful use of hands to support or emphasize a speaker’s verbal messages. Body language may include smiling, breathing, nodding, body movement and standing position.

Why is it important?

Effective body language conveys confidence and authority which helps the audience relax. Natural gesturing and body movement fosters trust in what the presenter is saying and helps speakers articulate their ideas more fluently and expressively. Effective use of gestures also allows presenters to express energy and enthusiasm, which attracts and maintains the audience’s attention.

How is it done?

To help the audience relax, effective speakers often smile naturally and stand confidently with their chest and arms relaxed. They make facial expressions that suit the content of what they are presenting, and move purposefully towards and away from the audience at appropriate times to engage and interact with them.

As hand gestures are extensions of one’s personality, there is no set formula for successful gesturing. Presenters’ hands, however, should move naturally to emphasize what they are thinking, feeling or saying. The audience should be focused on the message, not on the presenter’s hands, so gestures should not be ‘practised’ or forced. A presenter’s hand movements and body language should flow naturally from the presentation content, and should emphasize its key points. Hand gestures should be convincing, spontaneous, well-timed, and varied.

See Examples