018: 3 Ways to Correctly Use Your Hands On Camera

I’m going to share with you three very specific ways that you can best use your hands when you’re talking on camera.

If you were to attend a Toastmasters event, or anyone that’s doing public speaking or on-camera training, events that are trying to be very formal, they will likely tell you to not use your hands so much. That’s just common feedback, you probably heard it from your high school English teacher, when you were in speech class or something. Oftentimes, people believe that using your hands on camera can be distracting, and the truth is, using your hands on camera can be distracting. Yeah. However, there are certain ways that you can do it appropriately so that it actually helps to convey your message instead of distracts from your message, okay?

Three specific ways.

The first thing that I want you to pay attention to is to have a home base, okay? A home base for your hands. For me personally, I like to just rest them at my waist, not on my waist, not my hands on my hips kind of thing, but just rest them.

I clasp them right in front of my waist. For me, whether I’m on camera or on stage, that just feels like a comfortable place to rest my hands. They’re able to easily be used but not be a distraction, right?

What you would not want to do is probably keep them tied to your side. If you stuck them right up against your thighs or something, that might look uncomfortable. Putting your hands on your hips can kind of communicate something that likely you do not want to communicate, a little bit more aggressive than you probably are looking for. But just kind of clasp them gently, loosely in front of your waist. That’s typically what I do. That’s called your home base. Then from there, you are able to always bring your hands back to that one location and feel comfortable still using them, okay? So that’s thing one.

Now, here’s the second. When you are on stage or on camera, your audience is seeing you in 2D, really. So, of course, on video, you know that there’s things behind me and that there may be things in front of me. However, when you are seeing me, you’re really only seeing a flat image. So, if I’m holding my hand up to the left of my face in 2D it looks to you to be directly to the left of my face, right? There’s no … Therefore, if I put my hand directly in front of my face, now all of a sudden, all you’re seeing is the hand. It completely blocks the face, okay?

We’ve got to be aware of the fact that anytime you’re using your hands, you do not want to put them in front of your face, or in front of anything that you are showcasing. So, if you’re showing an example of something on stage, or if there’s a … Let’s say that there’s a screen behind you that needs to be seen, if you’re walking in front of it, well, then, it can’t be seen. The same is true of having your hands in front of your face. That is what we’re trying to avoid, okay, because that does get distracting, of course.

People want to see your face, they want to see your eyes, they want to see your mouth moving. Those things are points of communication that are going to actually serve you, and so if you’re blocking that, then it’s limiting the communication.

So, that’s the second thing. Now, the next is, along those same lines with the idea of being 2D. Oftentimes, in a lot of public speeches or on camera and stuff, we will give them certain numbers. We might say, “Two years ago,” or, “I’m going to give you the three things that you need,” or, “There were five… blah, blah, blah.” As you do that, what we would do in person is we might kind of just hold up our three fingers. We don’t think much about it.

But if you are on camera or on the stage, you need to be aware of that 2D factor, which is, if all three of your fingers are aligned in this 2D plane, then people aren’t going to … not see how many fingers you’re really holding up, right? You’ve got to turn them to the side so that it’s visual. You’ve got to help them to see it. So, we want to have your palm facing the audience, or the back of your hand facing the audience. Either way, then people are able to see the separation between your fingers, if you’re holding up one finger, or two fingers, or five fingers, right? That’s what you want to think about.

The next thing is you don’t want to hold them in front of your body. If I’m holding up two fingers, I want to hold them up next to … kind of next to my ear, really. This is whether you’re on stage or on camera. You want to hold it up to your side, not in front of yourself, because again, that can get distracting, okay? We want to make sure that they’re able to see it and that they’re not getting confused about everything that’s happening in front of their face, right, because again, it’s like 2D. It’s like a picture. We wouldn’t want to put a picture of two fingers over top of a picture of the person’s body that we also want them to pay attention to, right? So, 2D, we want to put the pictures next to each other. Okay.

Now, the third thing is for, yes, both on camera and on stage, but it’s likely that this will come up more for you when you’re speaking on stage. That is the idea that the visual aspects, whether it’s the stage or the screen, this is like a map for your audience, okay? So, as I’m speaking, let’s say that I’m sharing something and I put it over here in my left hand on this side of the screen, okay? Or maybe if you are doing a public speech, you’re on stage, you might walk to a certain corner of that stage and stand.

Well, wherever you put that thing in the visual aspect, it now lives there for the audience.

Now, this is different than one-on-one communication when you’re talking with somebody, you might say, for example, “Well, on the one hand, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and then say, “Well, on the other hand, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Well, in conversation, if you go back to the first example, but it’s on that same hand that you just … you’re whatever, you’re not giving them visual differentiation, people can generally still follow.

But when you’re watching it on stage or on screen, and if I’m saying to you a certain story, and I’m going to say, “Well, example number one is on this side of the stage or of the screen, and example number two is on this side of the stage or the screen,” visually, your audience still is seeing this thing over here, right? And so you wouldn’t want to say … For those of you who are listening on audio, I’m holding my left hand up. So, if I’m saying, Oh, this certain thing over here, example one and then I do the exact same thing, example two, well now, I’m putting two things in the same spacial area, okay?

So, instead, you want to create the spacial areas for your stories in advance if you’re going to be doing that, okay? You want to say, Thing number one maybe lives here. Thing number two is over here, and thing number three is over here. Now those three things are living in those places, right?

Same thing when you’re walking around on stage. Perhaps as you’re sharing your stories or if you are experiencing certain emotions as you tell the story, maybe the front left corner of the stage is where you tell the sad part of the story. Then you walk to the right side of the stage and you tell the happy, overcoming part of the story. Then you walk to the center back part of the stage and you tell the rising part of the story. Well, if you’re walking back to the left part of the stage, as you did originally for the sad part, but now you’re telling a happy part, it’s not like your audience …they’re not idiots. It’s not like they’re not going to be able to follow you at all, okay? They’re still going to be able to like, “Oh, okay.” But you’re just making them think that much harder, and I’m telling you, it will make a world of difference.

Here’s another good example, actually. If you say, “Thing number one, thing number two, thing number three,” and you’re giving three things and you’re putting them on your fingers, like you’re touching your pointer finger, “Number one, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and you tell that story. “Number two,” and then you’re touching your middle finger, “blah, blah, blah, blah,” and, “Number three, blah, blah, blah.” Well, you don’t go off and say, “And four, five, six,” and then don’t give them fingers, right, because now already you’ve placed those things that you’re talking about onto your fingers, so people are believing that they’ve lived there, right?

As a 2D image, it’s like a movie, and that is what they’re experiencing, okay? That’s for the screen, if you’re on camera and for the stage. If you’re on stage, with a big spotlight, and they can see it, it really does show up as 2D, okay?

Let me just recap this. Number one, allow your hands to have a home base, okay? Know what that home base is and make it feel really comfortable so that when you’re not using your hands, you’re able to go back to that, okay? The next is you’ve got to think about this in 2D, what your audience sees if you’re putting things over top of other things, then it’s fading into the background. They’re not even seeing it at all, okay? So, when you think 2D, this is the space that I’ve got to work with, then you are aware of how you’re holding your fingers, not putting your hands in front of your face. Then the third thing is, using your screen or your stage as a map to further communicate your story, to tell it in a way that people can really follow it because of how you are choreographing yourself across that stage, okay?

Hopefully this helps. You know that I am a huge fan of using your hands and lots of body language. For me, it feels like it’s a way to further communicate. I can’t even imagine speaking without using my hands. It’s so hard for me to do because I use my hands as a way to further the expression that I have, you know? Same as with my face and with my body language. All of that helps me to get my message across, and I believe that it’s really important, because this is how we talk in normal life, right? We use our hands.

When you talk to friends, if there’s a friend of yours that really uses her hands, that’s a part of who she is. That’s just what she does, right? Perhaps you have a friend that doesn’t use them that much, and that’s okay too. It’s not that we’re trying to impersonate somebody else. It’s just that we’re trying to be able to use our hands appropriately in order to further communicate when you’re on the stage.

Thanks so much for listening,
I’ll see you on the next time.