You outstretch your hand toward someone in a meeting or presentation. “Yes, Amit, you have a question?”

Is your palm up, down, or are you pointing with your finger? Does it matter?

As it turns out, it does. Research shows gesturing toward others with your palm up is most effective.

Here are two pieces of information that help understand why, and how it works:

  • In her book Super Better, Jane McGonigal writes that, since ancient, pre-language times, holding a hand out palm up indicates a welcome, and an offer of help. A palm down signifies a negative, or a rejection.
  • In his Ted Talk  Body language, the power is in the palm of your hand” (from about 5:30 to 10:00), Allan Pease demonstrates the power of the upturned vs the downturned palm and the pointed finger.  He “points out” (pardon the pun) that directions given with palms up can be 40% more effective in terms of audience retention and engagement than those given with downturned palms. And, when the speaker points, audiences recall less of the their content.
So what does this have to do with Leadership Presence?

Gesturing with your palm up conveys that you welcome and support the listener — they’re “in good hands” with you. It makes you appear open, approachable, and able to create connection.

ACTION: If you tend to point or gesture with your palm down, consciously practice the palm up approach. Note the results..