by Peter Watts
There are three things your hands should avoid touching during a presentation; your chest, your hips, and each other!
When we feel insecure, we use defensive body postures. Our hands might clutch before us, interlocked fingers flexing in angst, or alternately they might find a convenient object and start to fidget compulsively with it. All such gestures are unconscious and it’s only when we see ourselves on video that we discover what distracting gestures our hands get up to while we are speaking!
The optimal posture for presenters is to keep the upper body “open”; free from defensive body postures. This leaves the question of what to do with those flapping, fidgeting hands, and is why many presenters use props to anchor their hands, the two most popular being pens and notes:
Hold a pen with it’s right end in your right hand, and it’s left end in your left. Your hands are now occupied, while being physically prevented from meeting by the pen between them. If you need to gesture to something on the slide, the pen becomes a convenient pointer.
Make sure the pen you use isn’t the type with a clicker to extend and retract the nib, or you might subconsciously click your way through the presentation instead!
As with the pen, notes can also be an anchor. Hold them by their two bottom corners and, once again, you are securely in the open body position. If you want to gesture or point then you can do so, before returning your hand to it’s note-holding position.
Carry a minimum of ten sheets even if your notes only cover the top page. Ten pages have a rigidity that a single page does not. If you have the slightest hand-tremble, a single page will amplify it, whereas ten pages will absorb and mask it.
Over time you will become used to working in the open posture and can free your hands to use as tools for adding emphasis and style. Initially though, it can feel more comfortable, as many presenters do, to use well chosen props to keep that posture open.