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🎶Let Me Hear Your Body Talk🎶 How To Use Gestures Effectively On Camera

Don't know what to do with your hands on camera? Listen to episode 24 of Camera Ready With Val Brown to find out.

A question I hear a lot is "What should I do with my hands on camera?" And it's a good one, because often we feel awkward when we are in a sense, performing in front of the camera. Knowing how to use gestures effectively not only increases your confidence, it can add emphasis and credibility to your message.

Today’s blog post is about how to use gestures on camera in a way that’s authentic and supports your message and brand.

On today's episode you'll learn:

  • Why and when to move

  • How to know when to gesture or move

  • What you need to remember when you are practicing your on camera gestures

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

When you speak, it’s more than what you are saying that communicates your sincerity; it’s your gestures, posture and how you deliver your message and your appearance.

We’ve talked in depth about what to wear (for a review, check out Episode 5). Now it's time to talk about your gestures.

If your audience senses your gestures are out of alignment with what you are saying, then they are not likely to believe your message. Remember our three brains - head, heart and gut? If you need a refresher we talked about this in Episode 4 about On Camera Presence.

It’s a well documented fact that more than half of our communication is non verbal. That means your body (even more than what you are saying) is your most powerful instrument for conveying your authentic self and enthusiasm for what you do.

Done well, using gestures is an effective way to emphasize a point, add energy to your delivery and connect with your audience. Used poorly, your body language can have the exact opposite effect.

Has This Happened To You?

You recorded a video and are playing back. When you watch it you are horrified by how you move your body, and the hand gestures you use.

You keep asking yourself, why do I do that with my head? or why do I keep looking away from the camera? or even worse, you turn off the video because you don't like what you see?

What you feel like you are doing on the inside and what it looks like on video don’t match up.

Go ahead, raise your hand if this is you, you are not alone. It’s one of the main reasons I became a producer!

The reason you feel that way is because you are used to what it FEELS like inside your body to move in a certain way, you’re just not used to what it LOOKS like, and that creates a disconnect when you watch yourself on video.

Since we are used to what our gestures feel like, not what they look like, we are likely to be hyper critical of ourselves when it may not be coming across that way to others.

When I first started in television, one of the things I did to cope with being nervous was to rock back and forth. While it may have made me feel better in the moment, I truly got seasick watching the replay of the video and I’m sure many viewers just tuned out.

That's how I learned the camera not only captures your movements, it exaggerates them.

Here’s the good news - you can learn how to move and use your hands and body effectively in a way that will authentically support your brand, put you at ease and in a class of your own when you are developing your on camera presence.

So if you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Here are three simple things you can do to make sure the gestures you are using support your message and your brand and make your video enjoyable to watch.

  1. Be intentional about using gestures and movement, know why and when you are going to move.

  2. Get really familiar with your material and record yourself so you know know what you look like when you make a gesture or move

  3. Maintain a sense of humor as you are learning and growing your on camera presence.

Okay, let’s go through each of these.

The first thing you need to pay attention to is your intention for using gestures and movement on camera. Using gestures adds energy to your delivery and emphasis to certain points you want to make.

Some people don’t talk with their hands, so using gestures can look staged. So knowing why and when to use will help you to look natural on camera.

If you are using gestures because you always talk with your hands, and can’t talk without them pay attention to where your hands are in relationship to your body and face and how they support your message. You don’t have to be like anyone else, just confident, comfortable and relaxed.

If you don’t talk with your hands, don’t feel like you need to start now. Standing with good posture and your hands relaxed at your sides will allow you to feel like yourself and concentrate on the message you are delivering.

Repetitive hand gestures are both distracting and can seem insincere if used over and over. I can think of lots of videos where I’ve seen this and honestly, I’m so hooked on watching them move their hands, I don’t hear what they are saying. So pay attention to your gestures

Second, practice using gestures that come naturally and record yourself and see how they come across on camera. Work to eliminate gestures that are distracting. Remember to smile and pay attention to your facial expressions they should match what you are saying.

If you are speaking into the camera stay connected to your viewer through eye contact and your body. If you look off camera, or move away, they will wonder what you are looking at and it will break your connection with your viewer.

One of the first things I do when I’m working with clients is have them record themselves and play it back. It usually doesn’t take too long for them to realize how their talking with their hands or facial expressions are competing with the message they are delivering. That opens up space to talk about how to use gestures effectively to support their message. This is a great exercise in self awareness that translates to all of your presentations.

I don’t advocate putting your hands in the prayer position or in your pockets. There’s lots of research out there about people’s trust levels going down when they can’t see your hands. The prayer position isn’t really natural for most of us and can feel staged and create a feeling of superiority.

Here's a worksheet you can download to use with this exercise so you can make notes of the gestures that work and those that are distracting.

Each time you record yourself, work to eliminate the distractions and increase effective gestures.

How can you make sure you are using your gestures effectively?

Mark your script for movement and then practice. If you are delivering a message that has highs and lows, moments of emotion and excitement, mark your script.

When do you speed up?

Or slow down?

When you want to add energy you may want to move slightly toward the camera and gesture at the same time.

A slight turn can help signal you are moving on to a different idea.

Wide and repetitive gestures are distracting and take away from your message. Using the same motion over and over comes across as staged and inauthentic.

Keep your hands open and within the frame and out in front of you at about chest height. That way if you are framed closer, your viewers will be able to see your hands, and not just your body movements.

Rocking back and forth is distracting and the camera magnifies your motion. A trick I used to stay anchored when I’m on camera is to put one foot slightly forward.This allows you to balance your weight between your feet and keeps you facing the camera. You can rebalance easily this way if you move to a different spot.

Another bonus of using gestures is it’s a great way to help you deal with nerves. You can channel your energy into effective motion and not only will you feel better, your viewers will be more engaged.

Using gestures effectively for emphasis requires you to pay attention to what you are saying and using gestures or movements to support what you are saying.

Practice BEFORE you hit the record button.This doesn’t have to be elaborate and take a lot of time. If you take a few minutes to practice, and record yourself you can save a lot of time in the long run with doing unnecessary takes.

I want to help you develop good habits that will serve you well into the future whether you’re recording a video or making a live presentation.

Work to eliminate gestures that are distracting or where the timing can be adjusted for more effective emphasis. You don’t have to be like anyone else, just confident, comfortable and relaxed.

I promise you, once you do this a few times, it will become second nature because you will see how much more energy you have in your delivery and how much more authentic you will feel when you deliver your message.

And lastly, maintain a sense of humor - not every video is going to get done in one take. When you make a mistake, be nice to yourself. It takes practice to use gestures in a way that feels natural and to use them effectively.

Once you start to master using gestures effectively for emphasis, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them. A huge benefit of this is this also translates, with a few tweaks to presenting in person on stage - so it’s well worth the effort to master using gestures on camera effectively.

By staying loose and forgiving yourself when you don’t get it right, you are going to keep your energy up and make this a lot more fun for you and your crew if you are working with one. Laugh and shake it off it will make you feel better. Even the pros in Hollywood have blooper reels.

Follow these steps, and you are well on your way to creating a credible visual brand and on camera presence.

Let's Sum It Up

A big part of your on camera presence is how you use gestures. When you use them well, they can add energy and authenticity to your message.

Here’s three things you can do to learn to use gestures effectively:

  1. Be intentional about why you are using gestures. Is it to add energy? Emphasis? Not everyone is comfortable with using gestures on camera, so it’s important to know why you are using them and to be intentional and try to yourself

  2. Mark your script for emphasis, where does it make sense to use gestures (avoid pointing at the camera, it’s rude) Then practice and record yourself making note of the difference between how something looks on camera and how it feels to you when you are doing it. Work to eliminate the disconnect between how a gesture looks and how it feels. Don’t forget to Download the worksheet from the show notes and make notes and work with a friend until you’ve eliminated distracting gestures.

  3. Be nice to yourself and maintain a sense of humor. This is a learning process and you need to give yourself space to experiment and try new things. When they don’t work out, let it go and move on. You’ll keep your energy up this way and end up with a great blooper reel you can use on social media.

Okay, that’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to download your worksheet.

As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have questions about being on camera, I’m collecting questions right now and will have a future episode exclusively focused on your questions. I already have some great ones, get yours in and I’ll include it too!

Until then, remember, with a little pre-planning, practice and a sense of humor, you can learn how to show up effectively and authentically on camera, every time.

Val Brown is an Emmy Award winning television producer, story, visual and personal brand consultant, coach, and speaker. She consults and coaches high performing business professionals and entrepreneurs looking to up their game and increase their confidence and credibility on camera. Val teaches you how to use your story to support your brand in video and photos. 

p.s. I’d love to connect on social media and hear your questions and concerns about being in front of the camera. 


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