Have you been in a place while filming where you just don’t know what to do with your hands?
It’s okay. We’ve all been there.
Hands are that weird body part that you just end up feeling conscious about, especially if you are in the spotlight. And filming is no different, it is the spotlight in a nutshell.
Unlike presentations where you engage with a small live audience, filming for a public audience can give you goosebumps.
These are a few simple tips that can sail you across the awkward hand gestures to a more confident presence whilst filming:
Maintain a Posture
Hands are a part of your body and are within the boundaries of your sensory-motor control. Remember this, because it will help you get out of frozen states while filming.
The number one thing to keep control of your hand movements during filming is maintaining a good posture.
A good posture signifies many things, like professionalism, an overall sense of health, and above all exudes confidence.
Your posture, of course, should be relevant to the type of video content.
Generally, for slightly longer video formats like webinars, it is okay to have a somewhat more relaxed posture, whilst maintaining a sense of professionality.
When you sit down to teach your audience something, your hands will follow the lead of your body to assist you throughout the video.
Have a look at Sr. Product Marketing Manager James Campbell from Pipedrive conducting this webinar:
He starts sitting comfortably at his desk like he would at work. And the content is appropriate for it, considering that it is a how-to type webinar for a niche audience.
His hand movements are simple and look extremely professional. The rest of the video is followed up with screen recording visuals of his computer, so James sitting at the desk is warranted.
You might think, “Hey, he’s a confident guy, he knows what he is doing.”. Well, surely that could be. But, here’s the thing. Towards the end of the video, there is a shot of James in full-frame. Take a look:
You can tell, he is as awkward as the rest of us. And does kind of struggle with his hands when not in his comfort zone (behind the desk).
But overall, James manages to maintain a good posture throughout the video and makes the quality of the video better through his gestures and appearance.
Understand the Frame and Boundaries
Notice how in the above example, James uses his hands differently in those two different frames? That’s because each frame warrants different hand and body movements.
If you will be moving a lot, you need to create a larger production set, and therefore a larger frame. Similarly, if you are going to be moving your hands a lot you can create a larger frame.
One way to deal with hands during filming is to not include them in the frame at all.
Here’s a video from Asana, notice how the framing is done to completely exclude any hand movements:
Although it doesn’t look awkward, hands do humanize video more because we are naturally more accustomed to being guided through hands in real life. But, hey, if you are struggling it is better to keep your hands out of the frame.
You can leverage tools like the free screen recorder by StoryXpress to create a webcam+screen recording.
Your screen becomes the main focus of the video, and the webcam recording is a small bubble on the side.
This evens out any awkwardness stemming from no visual hand movements, by reducing the output frame of your webcam video. And the video in itself still looks pretty good.
Here’s a tutorial from Pipedrive that uses this template:
Gesticulating Complex Concepts
The best way to deal with your hands during filming is to use them to your benefit. One way to do that is by using them as pointers while explaining complex concepts.
It’s probably not a brand new idea for most of us out there.
We often tend to do it unconsciously when explaining things to peers and colleagues. Hands make great visualization tools. A lot of us do this, especially with numbers.
Here’s a video from the co-founder of Pipedrive, Timo Rein, and he always uses his hands to gesticulate for the benefit of the viewer.
At every step of the video, Timo ensures the audience is looped in with his many gestures.
He will take complex concepts and use his hands to sort of simplifying things down to movement. This is a great trick, and extremely useful for both videos and offline presentations.
You can effectively do this too! Practicing during daily conversations, or video calls might help.
Even during audio calls you can gesticulate by yourself whilst explaining something. This will give you some much-needed insight into your style of gesticulation.
Keep It Formal, Use Hands for Assertion
Gesticulating effectively does require a little bit of openness in personality. If you are somewhat reserved, you can use a more formal technique.
This mostly involves keeping your hand folded at the back or using minimal gestures to evoke a sense of authoritativeness and assertion.
A lot of leaders exemplify this type of hand gesticulation.
Here’s Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture interacting with the CEO of Salesforce. And you will notice a very minimal movement of hands. I timed the exact moment when Julie made a visible gesture on the screen. That was 8 minutes into the webinar, and that too, only to emphasize a point.
Also, notice how Julie supplements minimal hand movements with body movements. So, although she keeps her hands to herself, her overall tone of the conversation is friendly and she frequently will move her shoulders.
You can most definitely take this route. Just take a breather before the video and keep your hands relaxed and only make calculated movements when necessary.
Extremely Calm Movements
Following up on the above trick, you can slightly engage more with your hands but calmly. This is the Steve Jobs type of hand movement:
Steve Jobs loved using his hands for presentations. He nails the art of gesticulating in a formal setting to explain a point, and exude confidence in the subject matter. But notice how calm his movements are.
He is excited in speech but maintains slow, calm, and calculated hand movements. Although he uses his hands a lot he still manages to pace the entire speech down with his hand movements.
This is an acquired art, but extremely simple to do.
All you need to do is maintain flowy movements instead of a restrictive stance. Just go along with what you are speaking, and try to visualize your speech with your hands but at a slower pace.
Hold on to Something
If none of the above ideas work for you. This one definitely will.
Use your hands like you normally would hold something. It could be a teacup, a pen, a market, a file, anything.
This is the easiest, the simplest way to manage your hands during videos. Webflow adds a quirky bit at the end of their video to manage hand movements:
The presenter is extremely awkward with his hands at the beginning of the video, and probably thus, found a way to balance the awkwardness out by honing the awkwardness.
Every unique individual has a unique style and body movement whilst expressing themselves. The number one takeaway you should have from this blog post is that whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of your insecurities.
From Steve Jobs to the CEO of Accenture today, everyone follows a different style of gesticulation in videos and presentations.
If you are still learning to be comfortable on screen, including some of these tricks in your daily conversations will be extremely helpful. And if you still struggle with looking good on camera, here is an interesting read for you.
Hope you found a way to manage your hands on camera through this blog post. Cheers and good luck!