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June 2024
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7 Important Hand Gestures

Tap into the power of body language.

By Rosemary Ravinal


Most of us are not tapping the power of body language when we speak on Zoom. When you consider that close to 90% of the information our brains process during video calls comes from visual data, the way we communicate nonverbally speaks volumes.

So why do most people show up as headshots only and miss the opportunity to engage their hands and bodies for more impact? Charismatic public speakers and influencers do it masterfully.

Body language research found that gestures increase the value of our spoken messages by more than 65%, and that audiences are more easily persuaded by what they see rather than what they hear.

“WomanThe ball, the box, and the steeple are compact hand gestures to underscore what you say on video calls.

Scientists also found that the gestures we make with our hands make people pay more attention to what is being said and help them understand more.

As we continue to spend most of our working hours on video calls, why not step up the quality of your overall delivery by incorporating hand gestures.

Frame your shot in landscape format so your arms are visible down to your elbows. Use your hands to animate your movements, create visual engagement, emphasize to your point of view, and establish the authority of your ideas.

Here are some standard hand gestures you can try when it is your turn to speak on your next video conference. These work as well on the physical stage, yet the immersive and intimate nature of video make them even more important in the virtual realm.

But a word of caution: Stay in the box. Appropriate hand-speaking space is from the top of your chest to your waist. If you go outside this imaginary box, it can backfire and become distracting and out of control. There are dozens of hand gestures you can use in professional settings, for example:

1The Box

Palms facing at mid-chest level about 12 inches apart help “frame” an argument or idea. It is useful at the top of a presentation or in a summation.

2Holding the Ball

Think about the idea of having “the world in your hands.” Cupped hands with finger extended as if you were holding a real soccer ball projects authority and mastery of your subject.

3The Steeple or Pyramid Hands

The fingertips of one hand press lightly against those of the other hand to form a church steeple or pyramid. You can use this gesture to signal authority when you are speaking, or when you are listening to demonstrate understanding and attention.

4The Numbers

The easiest and most basic hand gesture is numerical. Any time you enumerate, do the corresponding gesture with the fingers of one hand. This makes your number easier to remember for the listener, adds movement and warmth to your body language, and serves as a nonverbal anchor in the conversation.

5You and Me

When you point to the screen or the webcam and then back to you, it creates a link between you and your audience. It is a way of casting a virtual thread of connection to the people at the other end.

6Small, Medium, Large

Use stacked parallel hands to act out the concept of small, medium, and large when emphasizing growth or making comparisons.

7Clapping Hands

The applause reaction icon does not compare with two hands coming together to acknowledge, praise, or thank others. Even on mute, the gesture speaks well of your social skills.

In the increasingly competitive world of video conferencing, you need every advantage to stand out as your brilliant self. Let your hands talk with you.


Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Rosemary Ravinal’s blog.

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