Learn The Clear Path to Confident Public Speaking

Anne Marie at a trade show

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Have you ever strolled through the exhibit hall at a convention, trade show, or business expo? So many booths, so little time. How do you decide where to stop? It may be an interesting sign, a product display—or perhaps, the exhibitor.

Yes, the exhibitor, specifically one who looks interested in speaking to you. How can you tell? Take a look at their body language.

In her book, Power Hands: A Leader’s Guide to Hand Gestures, Dr. Linda Talley states, “By monitoring seven specific hand gestures, you can change the way you are perceived by viewers, followers, peers, and you can do it within minutes” (Talley, 2015).

These gestures are described as positive, negative, or neutral. Her research indicates that positive hand gestures attract people to you, while defensive hand gestures distance people from you (Talley and Temple, 2015).

Defensive Gestures
  • Arms crossed over chest: Creates a barrier between yourself and the listener. May be perceived as defensive, uneasy, insecure, or shy.
  • Hands behind back: May appear arrogant, over-confident, or superior.
  • Hands in pockets: Perceived as hiding something. May convey unwillingness, mistrust, or reluctance.
Neutral Gesture
  • Hands by side: No emotion is indicated. May be confusing without other situational cues, such as a smile or frown.
Positive Gestures
  • Steepling: Fingertips pressed together or fingers and palms pressed together (like praying). This position conveys confidence.
  • Community hands: Palms open and facing each other. Conveys a sense of inclusion.
  • Humility hands: Clasp hands in front. Conveys a sense of deference and humility.


What kind of hand gestures do you use?

Do you want to distance people or attract them to you? Does your body language sync with your message? Can you read the body language of others?
Attract your listener. It may be the determining factor in making a sale, getting a promotion, or maintaining a satisfied customer.

Talley, L. (2016). Power Hands: A Leader’s Guide to Hand Gestures [Kindle]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Power-Hands-Leaders-Gestures-Talley-ebook/dp/B01MSPKTGN.

Talley, L. & Temple, S. (2015). How leaders influence followers through the use of nonverbal communication. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 36(1), 69-80.

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