Slidegenius, Inc.

Add Rhythm to Your Presentation with Hand Gestures

Gesturing comes naturally in presentations. Hand gestures are nonverbal cues that convey your enthusiasm while communicating a hidden story.

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Get hundreds of PowerPoint slides for free.

Sign up for your free account today.

Sign Up now

Let’s look at four common hand movements—palm up, palm down, precision grip, and power grip.

Palm Up

Uplifted palms connote humility and sincerity. As Brad Phillips writes in Mr. Media Training, Allan and Barbara Pease’s The Definitive Book of Body Language features the positive reception of the palm-up position compared to other gestures.

Speaking with your palms up is not only useful during actual discussion but also when reaching out to your audience. This works better than pointing your finger at them for questions and opinions. Use this gesture to look appealing and friendly.

Palm Down

The palm-down cues a more domineering and assertive tone. This position is ideal in situations where something is being denied and negated. You can also use this when making a stand. To bring your audience closer to your point of view, just place your hands down, facing towards your chest. This move communicates your desire to persuade your listeners.

Precision Grip

According to body language research pioneer, Desmond Morris, the role of the precision grip is to “mark the points of emphasis in a speech.” Put the thumb and forefinger together to emphasize the points being discussed.

Use grips when stating facts, describing your argument’s delicate points, and highlighting important details.

Power Grip

A grasp or a power grip is similar to the precision grip, but it uses the whole hand, with fingers firmly spread and bent either facing to your audience or onto yourself.

The power grip is the nonverbal way of saying, “I’m holding on to something and I want you to understand it.” Use this to give your audience a better grip on a problem you’re explaining.

Your hand gestures dramatically alter how your audience listens to you. These body movements imply authority, sincerity, humility, and other emotions required to command attention.

Use these to sound confident and conversational during your presentation. With enough practice, you’ll be landing big sales with simple gestures in no time.

SlideGenius Blog Module One

Download free PowerPoint templates now.

Get professionally designed PowerPoint slides weekly.

Sign Up Now


Can You Become 56 Percent Better At Presenting–Instantly?Mr Media Training. Accessed June 2, 2015.
Morris, Desmond. “Baton Signals.” Peoplewatching. London: Vintage, 2002.
More Than Words: How to Improve Your Nonverbal Cues.” SlideGenius, Inc. 2015. Accessed June 2, 2015.

More Than Words: How to Improve Your Nonverbal Cues

In presentations, the audience perceive more than the words you share with them. They also derive meaning from nonverbal cues. Your mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language can say a lot about you and the topic you’re discussing.

A successful outcome doesn’t just rely on perfecting your slides and talking points. It also rests on how well you can hold yourself in front of a crowd. It doesn’t matter if you’re pitching to a small group or addressing a huge auditorium, improving your nonverbal cues can help in achieving your goals.

Your mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language can say a lot about you and the topic you’re discussing. A successful outcome doesn’t just rely on perfecting your slides and talking points. It also rests on how well you can hold yourself in front of a crowd.

Posture and gestures

The way you stand can have an effect on how the audience perceives you. In our previous discussion on body language, we went into Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose‘. According to the social psychologist, the simple act of standing straight can give you more confidence when facing a crowd. This shows that you’re sure of yourself and the information you’re presenting.

To maintain proper posture, keep your shoulders square and feet planted firmly on the ground. Avoid shifting your weight from one leg to another or swaying side to side. It’s also important that you don’t look too stiff. Aside from confidence, you want to show the audience that you feel comfortable in a position of authority. Walking around your space will allow you to feel more natural and at ease.

Just be sure to keep your movements purposeful and minimal. If you want to walk around the stage, stay in one spot for a few moments. The best way to do this is by following the natural flow of your presentation. Finish discussing one point in a certain part of the stage before moving to another spot.

Make use of strong and defined gestures to add emphasis to the points you’re making. Most presenters like to extend their arms in an open gesture to convey their sincerity. Just keep in mind that these should be well-coordinated with what you’re trying to convey.

Facial expressions

Aside from posture and gestures, your face also plays an important role in delivering nonverbal cues. A single word can be defined in various ways, depending on how you look when you say it.

With a smile, the word “go” can be a form of encouragement and support. With a more aggressive expression, it can be a sign of impatience. In presentations, don’t forget that changes like these can alter how the audience perceives what you share.

As a general rule, you should always try to smile throughout your presentation. You want to be able to project a positive and lively atmosphere. A blank face can make you look bored and uninterested, which your audience can easily discern. How will they take interest in your discussion that way? If you want them to connect with your message, your face should always match what you’re trying to say.

Eye contact

Your face will look lifeless if you don’t know what to do with your eyes. As the old saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. Communication is all about making a connection. Keynote speaker, Carol Kinsey Goman expounds on how eye contact is an important factor in achieving that.

Eye contact is easy if you’re addressing a small crowd, but how are you supposed to do it with a large audience? Pick a handful of people that are seated in different parts of the room. Find a few seated on the left, some seated in the middle, and others seated in the right. Look to the group on the left for a few seconds before you move on to the other group.

This will give the impression that you’re paying close attention to everyone in the room. Avoid darting your eyes all over the room. Keep your attention toward one direction at a time.


With all that said, utilizing nonverbal cues to improve your presentation can be a bit of a challenge.

Our bodies will often betray how we feel in certain circumstances. When you’re feeling nervous or anxious, your hands might shake or your voice might falter.

You might tend to slouch or take on a defensive posture like crossing your arms. This is why it’s important to take the time to rehearse how you’ll deliver your presentation.

Make active decisions about your nonverbal cues to avoid confusing your audience. The goal is to deliver a message that is clear and concise. You can’t do that if your nonverbal cues are in conflict with your words.



Goman, Carol-Kinsey. “Fascinating Facts About Eye Contact.” Forbes. August 21, 2014. Accessed January 6, 2015.
Hand Gestures: What to do with your hands when presenting.” Speak Like a Pro. Accessed January 6, 2015.
How to Use Body Language Like a Presentation Expert.” SlideGenius PowerPoint Design & Presentation Experts. June 2, 2015. Accessed January 6, 2015.
Power Your Presentations with These Body Language Tips.” SlideGenius PowerPoint Design & Presentation Experts. July 16, 2014. Accessed January 6, 2015.
Public Speaking Tips.” Art of Communicating. Accessed January 6, 2015.
Your Body Language Shapes Who You AreAmy Cuddy. Accessed January 6, 2015.


Featured Image: Gratisography