How to Eliminate Distracted Gesture from Innovative Presentations

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

Even seasoned speaking professionals often have a bit of stage fright or anxiety, especially when giving a new innovative presentation or speech. In new or nerve-wracking circumstances, some mannerisms you don’t even know you have come out of hiding. That’s why videotaping yourself can be a real (surprising or perhaps shocking) revelation.

Don’t let nervous mannerisms hurt your professional image and affect your presentation results. Watch your videotaped presentation and see if you do the following, then work on being conscious of them in your future presentations:

  • Fidgeting with something in your hands — a marker, rubber band, paper clip, laser pointer, or your slide remote control.

  • Frequently adjusting your tie or jacket or smoothing a part of your clothing or rubbing your clothing as if getting rid of a piece of lint.

  • Taking your glasses on and off or putting a pen in and out of your mouth.

  • Drumming your fingers on the lectern or playing with your microphone or its cord.

  • Tugging at your ear, scratching the side of your face, smoothing your hair, twisting your mustache, or pulling on your beard.

  • Playing with a necklace or other piece of jewelry. Men often tug at cufflinks.

Like it or not, chances are you use unconscious gestures even in everyday conversations; if you become more aware of them during daily activities and curb them, you’ll be less likely to use them during your presentation.

Years ago before laser pointers, you would often see people with retractable pointers continuously extending them and collapsing them without the slightest idea they were doing it. Or some people using a flipchart or whiteboard would hold a big marker in one hand and repeatedly snap the cap on and off.

Don’t despair, you can work on one skill at a time to perfect it, then move onto the next one. The best tool to evaluate and shape your progress is to either audio record or videotape your actual presentations or rehearsals to spot what you do. While looking at your video, pay attention to your volume, rate, and pauses.

Check to see what your body — facial expressions, gestures, posture, and body movement — is really saying. Most importantly, analyze how you’re relating to your audience, especially with eye contact.