16 Hand Gestures that Will Get You Ahead in Business

Happy National Handshake Day

Your heart is beating out of your chest. Your palms will not stop sweating. Your eyes are twitching – could be the coffee you chugged before the meeting or could be the lack of sleep you've had preparing for this moment.

All that separates you from starting the business of your dreams is the 90-minute meeting you're about to lead in front of investors, partners, colleagues, and a lot of other scary, important people.

No pressure.

But really — there is a TON of pressure. So how do you slow down your heart rate? How do you stop the sweat from seeping through your shirt? By tricking your body into thinking you're a boss — because really, in a few days, weeks or years, you will be. You just have to get through this one meeting.

In honor of National Handshake Day, we'll share 16 body gestures that'll help you feel and look like the boss you already are or will become.

Prep Movements to Get You Pumped

Don't walk into that meeting or presentation before doing these movements. These gestures have been scientifically proven to get your mind to a place of "YES I CAN."


"Mirror, mirror, on the wall…"

OK, you don't need to stare into a mirror and talk to yourself; but practicing smiling before a big presentation does boost your confidence. Smiling (whether real or fake) releases endorphins, slows your heart rate, and relaxes your body because it reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.

It's also important to smile during a presentation or meeting as it draws people in to what you're saying.

Fist Pump

Believe it or not, fist bumping is actually a great way to maintain your "Zen." Many studies have found that muscle-tensing movements help you stay calm. So next time you're feeling nervous, just try fist pumping your way out of it.

Wonder Woman Stance

You don't need to be a super hero to feel like one. Standing with your chest out, feet wide apart, shoulders back and hands on your hips for two minutes has been proven to make you feel powerful.

Psychologists believe that by standing in this pose, you're boosting your self-esteem because you're physically taking up more space and making yourself feel visible.

Business Body Language

According to an experiment by psycholinguistics Judith Holler and Geoffrey Beatie, hand gestures are proven to increase the value of your message by 60%. Using hand gestures while delivering a speech or presentation helps the audience stay engaged and remember what you say.

But — not all hand gestures are created equal. Below, we discuss which gestures improve or harm your delivery.

Fight the Fidget

Stay away from fidgeting. According to an Adecco USA survey, 26% of applicants are rejected from a position because they fidget in their interviews. According to the hiring managers, fidgeting portrays a lack of confidence and preparation.

Twirling your hair and twiddling your thumbs also takes the attention away from what you're saying, as your audience gets distracted. So remember: remain focused so your audience remains focused.


Just because it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, doesn't mean you should look like it. Posture is essential to exuding confidence. Shoulders back, head high, core tucked in, and breathe.

Story Telling Gestures

Spencer Kelly, co-director of the Center for Language and Brain at Colgate University, found that certain gestures make people pay attention to speech: "Gestures are not merely add-ons to language — they may actually be a fundamental part of it," explained Kelly.

Below, Mary portrays a few gestures to use in your presentation or meeting that will enhance your story:

The Power of a Good Handshake

Back in Roman times, soldiers held out their hands to show allies they weren't carrying weapons. Today, the handshake is a respectful greeting that also conveys you mean business.

But there is a wrong and right way to go about the handshake. Most important to note, is that in order to create equality amongst colleagues, both palms should remain vertical to create the feeling of mutual respect. If one person tries to move the other palm horizontally, it could be a display of dominance. Not a great way to start a meeting.

It's also important for women to practice firm handshakes. In 2001, William Chaplin at the University of Alabama conducted a study on handshakes and found that men had firmer handshakes than women did. However, the women who did have firm handshakes were perceived just as positively as the men.

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