No one will ever accept your pitch unless you do this with your body during your presentation

On average, the deployment of hand gestures accounted for a 12% increase in the likelihood of subjects being interesting in the staged investments.

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Pitching is an inherently difficult thing to do. Much of the consternation revolves around word economy, but if research presented by Joep Cornelissen of Erasmus University is to be believed, gestures actually hold more weight than speaking does, when pitching ideas.

Painting a picture

The findings, which premiered in the May edition of the Harvard Business Review, had Cornelissen and his team of researchers put together four fictional pitches. One of the pitches featured a heavy amount of figurative language, one of the presentations included a lot of hand gestures,  one used both figurative language and hand gestures and the last pitch used neither.  “When the “entrepreneur”—an actor we’d hired—used his hands to explain the idea, investors were more interested in it than when he described it in straightforward technical terms or with metaphors, analogies, and anecdotes,” Cornelissen explained.


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On average, the deployment of hand gestures accounted for a 12% increase in the likelihood of subjects being interesting in the staged investments.  A perfect pitch is one that depicts an idea as clearly and concisely as possible.

In Cornelissen’s measured opinion, the use of hand gestures ensures foreign concepts come across more concretely.  Investors could better appraise the product’s potential because they had a pretty good understanding of how it might look and work.

More than the practical reasoning, gestures also make speakers seem more charismatic and passionate. Body language is a great way to suggest confidence, without running the risk of coming across as delusional or overbearing.

On the one hand

There has to be some kind of method at play. The wrong kind of hand gestures can have an adverse effect. “Too much gesturing could be off-putting, making the pitch more of a pantomime,” Cornelissen told Harvard Business Review, It’s not about the amount, however. As long as the gestures align with what’s being said, they can only do your pitch good. Conversely, hand gestures that are both too frequent and irrelevant will serve as a distraction. Be sure to accompany key moments in the discourse with purposeful gesticulations. If you can be strategic and find one or two killer gestures that really mark your ideas or where you are with a venture—or that clarify what the product or service is about—that could do wonders.” Cornelissen explained.

Cornelissen research was tagged with another factor that impacts the perception of a pitch.  Male investors were much more likely to secure funding than women. Some of winning people over with your ideas have to do with appealing to their gut feelings and we don’t have much power as far as convincing subjects against superficial instincts are concerned, unfortunately.  The best we can do is offer a cogent, considered, version of our ideas, in as clear and tidy a way as possible.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.