Question: Is it OK to put my hands in my pockets when I present? I’ve heard it’s a bad thing to do.
Answer: The short answer is yes, it’s OK to put your hands in your pockets. Just make sure that it doesn’t become a distraction to your listeners.
It’s not so much about hands in pockets as it is about what to do with your hands in general. In everyday conversation we gesture naturally, rarely thinking about what our hands are doing. But when we stand up in front of a group of people, things change. Some people say their hands feel like clumsy, foreign objects. So, to make things feel more comfortable, they put their hands in their pockets (or clasp them behind their back or in front of them). If your hands are confined and out of sight they won’t do anything embarrassing, right? Well maybe, but if you deliver your entire presentation with your hands locked in any position, they will eventually become a distraction to your listeners and an obstacle to you.
So, the thing to do is to treat the discomfort you feel with your hands as a symptom of a larger issue, the fact that you’re a little uncomfortable and nervous.
Go back to your engagement skills. Look the individuals in your audience in the eye just as you would in everyday conversation. Pause to give yourself time to breathe and think about what you’re saying. Before long you’ll be engaged and comfortable. Once that happens, your hands will do what comes naturally. Seems too easy, I know. But give it a try.
Greg Owen-Boger has been with Turpin Communication since 1995, first as a cameraman, then instructor, account manager, and now vice president. Schooled in management and the performing arts, Greg brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to the organization. Greg is one of Turpin’s facilitators and coaches. When he’s not with clients, he manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Greg is an active member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and was the 2015 President of ATD, Chicagoland Chapter. He is a popular speaker, frequent blogger, and the co-author of the book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. His latest book, also co-authored by Dale Ludwig, launched in 2017 and is entitled Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.