What hand gestures to use during an oral presentation

Written by rebecca mayglothling
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What hand gestures to use during an oral presentation
Speeches make many people nervous. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

When delivering a speech, it is traditionally considered rude to point at the audience or make other extravagant hand gestures. Nervous speech deliverers, however, find it difficult to leave their hands at their sides. However, some hand gestures are appropriate and have come to be expected during speech delivery. According to Science Daily, hand gestures assist with and are directly linked to better speaking.

Emphatic Gestures

When a speaker is trying to emphasise a point, he will often use an emphatic gesture. This gesture works best when there is no lectern hiding the presenter's body. The arm is at the side of the body with the elbow bent at the waist. The palm is facing the ceiling and the forearm is slowly moving away from the body. The audience perceives this gesture as inviting. The gesture pulls the audience into the speech.

Descriptive Gestures

These gestures are common in speech to accompany descriptive words that explain, for instance, someone's height, the level of an item on a shelf or other instances when a visual will enhance a description. If the speech presenter is describing the height of a man on a train, she may raise her hand, palm facing the floor, to the appropriate height of the top of the man's head.

Locative Gestures

These gestures are used when attempting to explain where something is located. If a person is standing on a stage, and he wishes to indicate the closest shopping mall, he may raise his fist with the index finger extended to point in the general direction of the mall. This gesture is used with terms such as "over there," "in that direction" or "in the east."

Transitional Gestures

These gestures are used to move audiences from one point to another. Speech presenters are often noticed using this gesture when using numerals or letters to highlight points. The hand is balled with the palm facing the presenter, and the fingers are extended to represent the sequence of points. For example, a presenter may state, "The first point is. ..." with the index finger pointed toward the ceiling. The completion of the first point will be followed by the statement, "The second point is. ..." with the index and middle finger extended together pointed toward the ceiling.

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