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The right gestures can seal the deal

When pitching and presenting your idea, products or services you want to have a clear, concise and compelling message. In addition, new research tells us that gestures may matter more than words.

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, Professor Joep Cornelissen of Erasmus University conducted a study where he asked a group of experienced investors to watch a video of entrepreneurs pitching a new device. In multiple presentations, some used a lot of figurative language; some included frequent hand motions; some deployed both; and some used neither. Investors were 12% more interested in investing with the presenter who used frequent hand gestures.

What they discovered was that strategic and purposeful gestures gave the investors a better sense of what the product would look like and how it would work. The gestures made the unfamiliar idea more concrete.

This of course is not about just “talking with your hands” which is what many of us do unconsciously. They identified the following types of gestures most of us make:

  • Beat gestures – repetitive motions that mark the rhythm of our speech.
  • Cohesive gestures that indicate the start or end of a sentence or points we are trying to make.
  • Symbolic gestures that convey information (reproducing the form of an object or describing a movement or expressing a feeling)

Could gesturing backfire? Yes, if the gestures are not aligned with the speech or do not help to illuminate or emphasize a point, they will simply serve as a distraction.

In essence, thoughtfully crafted body language, can help you seal the deal when pitching your ideas. Practice your next important presentation by thinking through and incorporating strategic gestures that will help your audience see what you mean and seal the deal.