Avoid these negative body language gestures in presentation

A commonly used communication statistics states that 55% of communication is done through body language, 38% through the use of voice and only 7% through the use of words. Although the numbers are not entirely verifiable, either in its definition or application, the fact remains that a person’s feelings and intentions can be displayed through body language gestures.

Negative body language gestures might not only distract audience’s attention but also misrepresent your message and intent during a presentation. Worst, the audience might even form a negative impression and perception of you as a presenter.

In this article, we will be focusing on the impacts of common negative body language gestures and why you should to avoid them as much as possible.

Negative body language gestures

1.     Touching your Neck

Amy Cuddy, an American social psychologist and author of bestselling book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges mentioned that touching of neck is a low power pose.

Power pose is a part of body language and consists of two categories – High and Low. People who engage in high power poses are perceived as powerful and strong. Whereas people who display low power poses are being perceived as uncomfortable and insecure.

Audience will lose confidence in you and your presentation if you display this particular low power pose.

negative body gestures Touching your Neck
Image Credit: Giphy

2.     Clasping of Hands in front of body

The clasping of hands in front of your body is a defensive position. This gesture signals discomfort and make you seem unprepared. 

When you use this gesture during a presentation, your audience might perceive you as an unprofessional speaker. As a result, the audience are more likely to disengage from your presentation.

Clasping of Hands in front of body
Image Credit: Speak First

3.     Closed Palms

During our ancestor’s time, they usually carry weapons around to protect themselves in times of emergency. When they show their palms to others, it sends a message that they are not carrying weapons and hence not a threat. This helps to facilitate trust between people. 

Fast forward to the present, open palms still conveys honesty and sincerity. In contrast, closed palms usually show that you have something to hide, which make others distrustful of you. Being authentic is one of the traits all great speakers possess.

Negative Body Gestures closed palms
Image Credit: Pexel

4.     Clasping Arms behind the back

Clasping your arms behind your back is a ‘self-restraint’ gesture. This is done in a situation where a person is trying to hold back a negative reaction, which is usually anxiety. 

When you engage in this gesture, your audience can tell that you feel nervous. As a result, your audience will know that you are not confident and less likely to follow you through your presentation.

Negative Body Gestures Clasping Arms behind the back
Image Credit: Psychmechanics.com

5.     Crossing Arms

Crossing your arms is also a defensive position. It sends a clear signal that a person feels threatened and insecure.

As a speaker, the last thing you want is to show the audience that you are afraid or uncertain.

Negative Body Gestures Crossing arms
Image Credit: Sciencefocus.com

6.     Hands in the pocket

This is a negative gesture that is frequently used by many speakers. This action displays a sign of insecurity and a lack of confidence. Similar to closed palms, not showing your hands to the audience during a presentation makes you seem less trustworthy and knowledgeable. As a result, your audience is more likely to take a pinch of salt of what you said.

Negative Body Gestures hands in the pocket
Image Credit: Sciencefocus.com

7.   Fidgeting your hands

The last one on the list is the fidgeting of hands. Fidgeting usually occurs when a speaker experience performance anxiety.

Similar to clasping of arms, audience can tell that you are nervous when you fidget your hands. It can be very distracting, leading to your audience focusing on your hands instead of you. This makes your presentation less impactful than it should be.

Image Credit: Giphy


As some of the mentioned negative gestures may feel natural to you due to years of habitual use, eliminating them immediately may not be possible. The key is to be aware that you use them and then take the time to reduce them consciously and incrementally over time.

This article sums up the number of negative gestures you should avoid in your presentation. 

If you are looking to improve your voice for a presentation, refer to these articles:

Speech Exercise to Improve Articulation

How to use appropriate tone of voice

How to improve your speaking voice

How to project your voice and speak louder

How to memorize a speech fast and without notes

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