Hands up if you use your hands when you talk…

Hand gestures

I do. All the time.

If I’m talking about big things, my hands kind of go “big fish” and maybe “even bigger fish”. If I’m talking about carving up responsibilities, then it’s all little chopping gestures. If my thinking’s still kind of cloudy but I think I might be getting somewhere, my hands are sure to be making slow, poofy, cumulus shapes.

Over the years a number of presentation coaches and colleagues have all remarked on my excitable hands. “Distracting” seemed to be the overall assessment. “Please hold your hands behind your back while you’re pitching,” an account director said to me a number of years ago.

Yet try as I might, the hands seem to have a life of their own, even when I’m on the phone. I know no-one can see the invisible options I’m pointing to, or even circling, in the air – especially when they’re a few hundred miles away on the other end of the line. I just can’t stop myself doing it.

But now, there’s a growing body of research that seems to poo-poo the conventional advice on trying to keep your hands under control.

The anthropologist Markus Koppensteiner has shown that audiences think people who use up and down hand motions as they talk are more authoritative and competent. (Audiences also guessed their height to be taller than they really were.)

Meanwhile, author and body language trainer Vanessa Van Edwards analysed hundreds of TED talks to understand why some go viral and some sink without trace – even when they deal with very similar topics. She found the successful talks contained almost twice as many hand gestures. The additional movement, it seems, conveys passion, enthusiasm and authenticity.

I may just go and have a crazy little jazz hands session to celebrate.