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Using Gestures for a Pitch-Perfect Workplace Presentation

In the work environment, employees often use persuasion to gain buy-in about something they are proposing. Employees do this when asking for an increased budget, requesting more hours, and pitching a new idea to the leadership team. All of these scenarios are ultimately sale pitches. 

A recent study in the Academy of Management Journal explored the use of language and gestures in corporate sale pitches. Specifically, they were interested in how nonverbal expressions, like gestures, would impact an investor becoming interested in a technology sales pitch. The researchers explored 17 pitches conducted by tech entrepreneurs. They examined what mix of language and gestures were used. A second study was conducted to examine what combination and gestures increased the likelihood that someone would invest in the entrepreneur’s idea.

The results revealed that high levels of gesturing to convey ideas made investors want to invest in the ideas. The most effective gestures were beat and ideational. Beat gestures are those that emphasize the pitch. Ideational gestures add visual representation of the idea. Both types of gestures allow individuals to “see” what the product and business is like. 

The researchers found that gesturing was important because it conveyed passion and provided mental imagery of the characteristics or uses of a product. In addition, figurative language played a role in this relationship. Figurative language refers to metaphors, analogies, and anecdotes. The more figurative language that was used, the stronger the relationship between gesturing and mental imagery.