Hand Signals: A Remote Technique!

There’s a running joke on my team. If you see my hands moving but can’t hear me, I’m on mute. I talk with my hands. My hands come alive anytime I talk. I can’t help it. But this “bad habit” has created some happy accidents in remote meetings that have enabled me to take some of my hand signals and create a non-verbal way of communicating.

I call this technique Hands Alive.

What is it?

Hands Alive means to use your hands to give speakers or viewers hand signals to give them information. It’s a non-verbal way of communicating.

What are the signals?

This is a short of list of possible hand signals:

  • Thumbs up – “Good” or “I agree”
  • Double thumbs up – “I very much agree!”
  • Stop/Pause – (hold palm flat so it’s shown to the camera) “Stop” or “Wait
  • “One second” – (hold up the index finger) “hang on a second”
  • Time’s up – (point to your wrist to indicate their time is over)
  • Applause – (clap your hands) hooray! or “that was great!”
  • Air quotes – used to paraphrase or quote was someone else has said.

For fun add:

  • Raise the roof – hold your palms to ceiling and push up. Means to “raise a ruckus” or make some noise to celebrate.
  • Running Man – a dance move from the 90s. Doesn’t mean anything but it’s another way I celebrate non-verbally!
The Running Man as popularized by the Fresh Prince. I do this from the waist up to celebrate. It’s really all about the arms anyway!

How to use hand signals

Your team may have other hand signals it uses. Be sure to take a picture of each and add its definitions so you can share with new team members.

Obviously Hands Alive requires a camera. If you read my other posts, I’m a big believer in having the camera turned on at all times. Cameras keep us human and keep us connected to each other.

Why does it work?

Virtual conversations can have a lot going on. Hand signals are a simple, visual way to communicate without interrupting the flow of a conversation. This can make conversations more inclusive and equitable so that participants who may not be able to speak can still participate in the conversation.

Hand signals can also add some fun to your virtual meetings too (see my post on Virtual Team High Five: A COVID Friendly, Remote Technique!)

Hand signals also work well when you have speakers of different languages. These common signals – if worked out in advance – can be easy ways to communicate agreement/disagreement or manage meetings without needing to understand a new language. (Note: make sure to take in account any hand signals which should be avoided in these situations)

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