How Hand Gestures Improve Engagement
Are you getting very few likes, comments, or shares with your videos?
What if I told it might be your stage presence?
Stick around because I’m going to show you how to increase engagement so that you capture, mesmerize, and keep your audience rapt with attention.
Transcript below the video.
Who doesn’t love a good story? And you know that telling a story is transformative if people can recall it and act on it in their life. Let it be a fable, a rumor, or an unfolding current event.
And If you want to capture the attention of your audience and bewitch the mind with your storytelling, add gestures.
Gestures not only add charisma to your storytelling, but help support the visual aspect of your words and implant better recall for the audience. Instead of keeping your arms to the side stiff risk boring your audience to death, gestures capture the inactive brain of the passive observers to bridge understanding. The same areas of the brain light up and engage as if they were experiencing it with you.
The key is to become invisible as the storyteller.
Listeners become rapt in the story. If we’re doing a good job, they will forget that we, the storyteller is even there!
If we fail to make gestures properly and randomly make awkward gestures throughout our presentation, we won’t make the impact with our story as we hoped.
In today’s environment, we have to be especially keen when we’re participating on Zoom call. We have a small window to showcase these gestures. We want to define what is seen above the zoom meridian (the upper body, right) and bring attention to all that is available to us.
Contrary to popular belief, we have a lot to work with.
Our upper body (above the waist) includes our hands, arms shoulders, back, head, and our face.
As the storytellers, let’s build our own Gesture Glossary.
First, let’s talk about the 4 public speaking gestures you can effectively use during your storytelling: Descriptive, Suggestive, Emphatic, and Prompting
1 Descriptive Gestures
Think like a mime.
If you couldn’t speak and had to use only gestures, what would different words as gestures look like?
Ask yourself, what do these words look like to you?
These descriptive gestures are what we use to describe something or a situation. To draw comparisons between sizes: large and small or weight: light and heavy.
Of course, gesticulation is different for every culture. Be mimeful of who you’re gesturing to. (See what I did there? Mimeful! Hahaha)
Let’s talk about reenacting with tools
Take real gadgets you use each day and practice gestures. For instance, use a pencil to paper and write your name. Now put down that pencil and mimic that gesture again. Get a feel for it.
Same with using a pair of scissors. Cut the paper and notice how the paper feels as your cutting it. Notice how your dominant hand feels as your fingers grip through the holes, opening and closing the blades through the paper.
Timing is key when it comes to connecting with gestures and storytelling.
You can take inspiration from gospel singers or ministers. They’ve learned to be effective storytellers with hand gestures.
I mentioned charisma earlier, that’s one of their secrets to being charismatic when coupled with vocal variety and rhythm. When used effectively, deliberate gestures can make you a larger than life personality. This is definitely something you want to convey through the use of video or on a zoom call.
As I watch my videos, I notice how a large chunk of energy can evaporate somewhere between my mouth and the camera lens. Gestures help to make up for that.
2 Prompting gesture
When you’re crafting your story as a presentation, consider implementing the prompting gesture.
Who here has ever played a musical instrument? (Raise your hand )
This represents the Prompting gesture.
Prompting encourages the audience to mimic the move as the storyteller.
When you’re crafting your story as a presentation, consider arranging it like a music composer.
Phrase and emphasize your sentences musically.
Stanzas (musical bars found on the staff) usually have Italian descriptors like allegro (means fast) or pianissimo (means soft) or staccato (means short.and.to.the.point)
After you’ve written your presentation, Examine each sentence to see how you could play it out like a musical actor.
3 Suggestive Gestures
Building our gesture vocabulary can begin with simple words we use every day. For instance, the word:
ALL – There are at least 2 ways that we can make gestures to illustrate this word.
Hands together or arms outstretch -depending on the point you want to embellish.
To make it more effective is to make sure the hands are apart before making this sweeping gesture.
See what I did there -with sweeping gesture?
TOGETHER – Hands together,
Demo standing still and gesture
When we come together. (Hands together)
When.We.Come.ToooGether (sweeping arms and hands together)
You can see one is more subtle than the other.
APART – Separate hands
EITHER/OR – Left hand flip up, right hand flip-up
BIG – Hands opens on each side of the face like the sunshine
TIP – Trick/Idea/Singular – Index finger pointing upward
COUNTING – 4 public speaking gestures or sequentially, like size and volume, or vocal variety, rhythm, and dance
FOR INSTANCE – Left hand loosely closed, right hand open palm up (suggests the start of a story) or You’re welcome
I/Me – Hand to chest (includes me) Even my schedule has turned belly up with stay at home mandate.
TELLING A SECRET
Voice is pianissimo (soft) so you lean toward the camera with your hand cupping the side of your mouth like you’re going to tell a secret.
To exaggerate this on a zoom screen, lean in your upper body and get close to the camera lens.
This really engages the brain and your brain says, “Oh wait! I’d better lean in and listen. This sounds like this is going to be really important!”
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4 Emphatic Gestures
In addition to hand gestures, let’s review facial gestures. Facial gestures are especially important above the zoom meridian. As Emphatic Gestures, these will help reinforce and symbolize the feelings in our story.
To attach an appropriate facial expression with a gesture, get acquainted with the most popular emotions for selling a story.
Originally there were 7. Now there are lucky 13.
Highlighting any of these emotional gestures with both body and face will help validate your words.
The effusive eye roll coupled with a smirk when I’m experiencing a person who is being officious, pushy or self-important. I haven’t done much of this since my MIL died and went to the big martini bar in the sky.
Spock: One raised eyebrow to express wisdom and mastery as in the other day when Andrew and I were taking bets on whether the virtual summit host was a millennial. I won that bet and raised it with my Spock eyebrow. I can’t wait for the nail salon to open so that I can get the pedicure I won. Hahahaha.
Keep these in mind as you build your personal glossary.
Lastly, let’s talk about venue.
Be mindful of the venue; You’ll want to adjust the size/type of gestures to the audience or venue. Toastmasters Int’l suggests that the bigger the audience, the bigger the gesture. Conversely, the smaller the screen the same gestures can be grossly exaggerated.
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Let’s talk about what to avoid.
When you’re getting jiggy with it, be mimeful that you don’t get overzealous with your gestures.
Avoid extraneous movement like the “washing machine”—when your hands go around and around as you reach for words. Looks a lot like the tumble cycle and you’ve got an unbalanced load bobbing around.”
Also avoid repetition. Like filler words, gestures can become meaningless and cliché to your personality.
Give a wide berth between gestures: coupling gestures back to back might look like you’re trying too hard.
An example might be
Hey folks (hand to side of face) what one more minute (index finger up), don’t you want to see (glasses) what ALL the fuss is about?
You don’t want to look clownish. You want to be deliberate with your gestures as you are with words.
Also, be aware of silent ticks or nervous habits that sneak up and reveal themselves. Movements like constantly bouncing in your seat, bobbing your head, pushing up your sleeves, scratching your armpit, or digging in your nose. Those can really impact and deflate your storytelling.
About Faux pas
When I was a kid and met someone from another country, the first thing I asked them to tell me how to curse in their language. Yes, I was that kid. It was a bonus When they showed me hand gestures.
Referring back to that moment when I said I was ‘that kid.’ I feel its especially important to know the vulgar gestures represented in other countries so that you don’t make it. That’s when I don’t want to be ‘that person.’
If you don’t feel like learning the vulgarities of other languages, please test your story with others to ensure you don’t commit that faux pas.
So go ahead and talk with your hands. Remember to be deliberate, supportive, and mind your venue.
Now I want to challenge you to use at least 3 (choose 3) gestures and facial expressions in your next video or zoom meetup.
Thank you so much.
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Lisa launched her first product line when she was 7 years old. Also known as the Inventor Mentor, Lisa helps STEAM professionals build products and their business.