Conducting isn't just for conductors.
It helps preparing works by locating yourself in the measure.
It is an externalised way to feel the pulse without noise.
It provides a way to feel metric accentuation without using additional force (physical or dynamic).
It has to be practised so that it is a fluent, relaxed movement.
Use your right hand - don't 'mirror' conduct (It's a waste of space and energy and often leads to dragging) and
The left hand is then free to be used for other (often more expressive) activity.
Remember, the upbeat is probably the most important beat as it prepares the performer to begin playing or singing.
Keep your strokes a manageable size by imagining a square in which your pattern will fit.
Make sure that the beats (the actual moment of the beat is clear - often this happens with a 'bounce').