Engage your audience

Seven hand gestures to help engage your audience

How effective are hand gestures when you’re talking to an audience or having an important conversation with a colleague or manager? Researcher Vanessa Van Edwards analysed thousands of hours of TED Talks to see if gestures affected which ones were most and least popular, and the results certainly told a story of how to engage your audience. The most popular TED Talks involved an average of 465 hand gestures in 18 minutes, while the least popular ones had only 272 hand gestures on average.

So what is it about how we use our hands while talking that has this effect of causing some talks to be so much more popular than others? Hand gestures can help us convey our messages so much more effectively than just our voices alone, so all of the best communicators use their hands as tools to engage audiences and help them sell whatever message they are trying to deliver.


To help you know how to do this too, Pound Place has come up with this animated guide to seven of the most effective hand gestures, showing you exactly how and when to use them. It can also help you to understand what you are seeing when you watch somebody giving a speech, and what they are trying to make you feel when they, for example, steeple their fingers together while talking.

As it happens, that gesture is all about power, intelligence and confidence, so if you have some wisdom you want to share – and you want everyone to know that you are wise – this is the gesture to make. If you want to make a point whilst offering no chance for anyone to even think differently, a curt chopping gesture with one hand shows that this is the way it is, and that is that.

If sincerity is what you are aiming for, the simplicity of holding your hand to your heart is the universal symbol for showing that you mean what you are saying, from the bottom of your heart, while holding your hands out wide expansively is how you can convey that you’ve got a big idea you want to share with them.

All of these gestures will help you become a more engaging and effective communicator, as long as you use them in a controlled and natural way that fits in with your speaking style. Going over the top will have the opposite effect and put people off listening to you, so practice these gestures and try incorporating them the next time you have something important to say.

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How do you engage your audience when you talk? Post your advice below.

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