Did anyone notice how uncomfortable Anne Hathaway looked while hosting the Academy Awards? Maybe it was nerves, or maybe it’s because her co-host was wooden. But whether she was anxious or not, her body language did little to help. If there was an Oscar for using T-Rex arms, she would have won the hardware. Take a look at her performance:
See how her lower arms, wrists and hands are often caught between her waist and shoulders? This is colorfully called T-Rex arms. Uncomfortable or novice presenters share these traits: A) they don’t know what to do with their hands, and B) they want to hide behind something for security. This results in T-Rex arms, when the arms and hands are used, or sort-of played with, in front of the torso in a manner that does not pertain to the presentation.
Anne clearly doesn’t know what to do with her hands. And when she does have a germane gesture, she goes way overboard–another sign of discomfort. Watch at 00:46, when she proclaims that it’s “Hollywood’s Biggest Night!” It looks like her arms finally release all the potential energy she built fiddling around her waist. Could you imagine Meryl Streep doing that with her arms? No. Not just because she’s more mature and reserved, but because she’s more comfortable and confident. T-Rex arms are a clear differentiator between confident and nervous presenters.
I don’t mean to pick nits, but this is a very obvious and public example of something that’s easy to identify and fix. It’s simple to distinguish experienced presenters from first-timers, and hand gestures are the easiest tip-off. So what should we do with our hands when presenting? Here’s a short list:
– Use your hands with restraint (no sudden or grandiose movements)
– Use both hands, and feel free to alternate
– Use natural positions (it’s natural to let your hands fall to your side)
– Use palm facing up and palm facing in positions for the above reason
– Use your hands to support descriptions (Biiiiig differnces, or *little* changes)
– Practice at home or with friends when you don’t have to focus on the content
– Keep your hands in your pockets too long (some is natural)
– Cross your arms too much (again, some is natural)
– Play with pens, paper, the podium, a pointer, or anything else
– Flail your arms, unless imitating Anne Hathaway
– Forget to practice until you’re comfortable with the material
Improving hand gestures and body language is a quick way to improve confidence and comfort when making presentations, and a great way to get a leg up. Young presenters are expected to be nervous and show it in their body language and gestures. Those who use comfortable arm and hand movements and control their gestures look more professional and will clearly stand out.
- How to Give a Bad Presentation (getalegup.wordpress.com)