Why use hand signals in a face-to-face meeting?
Since it is difficult to listen
to more than one person at a time, voice communication is more or less one-to-many
. How can we add many-to-many
communication to a face-to-face meeting? By using visual
signals, with our hands, instead of interrupting the speaker. If everyone understands these signals, then control of the discussion is much more horizontal than vertical.
The following pictures (and English text) are from a handout at the 2004 PGA meeting in Belgrade:
There is no point agreeing or disagreeing with someone's proposal if we do not understand it, and the speaker and facilitor may not realise that there are problems understanding him/her.
too loud, too soft
Moving your hands up or down - this is how you ask someone to speak louder or softer.
the L-sign - *L*-anguage
Making this sign shows that there are language or translation problems. Sometimes this means that you are asking someone to talk slower, and sometimes you are asking for translation.
Wiggling your fingers in front of your face - With this gesture you are showing that you don't follow the discussion anymore, and that another explanation is necessary. it can also mean that you are dizzy from too many details.
Waving with both hands ("twinkling") - This is how you say "I agree" or "I think that's a good idea". This is a quiet, easy way of letting everyone know, especially the facilitator, what you think.
Fist in the air - If attempts to understand the proposal or improve show that it's as fundamentally wrong as you first thought it was, you might need this sign. By showing your fist, you are saying "This is unacceptable."
The speaker and facilitator have difficulty redistributing the role of speaker in a non-hierarchical way if there is no visual feedback.
i want to speak
Pointed index finger - This means that you have a question or remark and that you would like to let the facilitator know that you want to speak. If a lot of people stick up their index findgers at once, then the facilitator (or somebody who assists her) can make a speakers' list.
i want to respond directly
Two hands held in the air - You want to directly react to something the last speaker said. This give you priority over the people who raise their hands and who might possibly change the subject with their remarks.
accelerate, wind up
Circling your hands - When people talk too long, you can circle with your hands in the air to ask them to finish off what they are saying.
With this gesture you ask for the opportunity to make a technical remark (such as to suggest the meeting takes a break, or to make an important announcement or suggestion). Obviously, nobody should misuse the time-out sign to gain priority over other speakers or to change the subject.