“I don’t know what to do with my hands when I am doing an on-camera interview?” Without a doubt, this is the single most common question I get during my media training sessions. “Do I sit on them? Put my arms around my back and clasp my hands? Hold something?”
No, no, and no although I understand why many people are confused. Doing an on-camera interview is mostly an unnatural and sterile experience, and figuring out what to do with your face, eyes, and body can be somewhat perplexing. I think the major reason why is that many people worry they will physically do something which is distracting to the viewer and takes away from their primary message. Again, I get it. No one wants to do that.
Never has this problem been more clear to me than when a government agency asked me to work with one of their Public Information Officers who was struggling with her on-camera performance. She was described to me as smart, relatable. engaging and attractive but when she did an on-camera interview she became stiff, awkward and very formal. The client kept telling her, just be yourself but they couldn’t get her there.
I came in and conducted a full media training which included working with her one on one for mock interview training. The very first question she asked me, of course, was “what do I do with my hands?” I told her to use them just like she does when she normally speaks while not on-camera. She then explained to me that she went through media training years before and the instructor told her that her use of her hands and arms was very distracting and he encouraged her to hold a pen in her hands on her lap to keep her arms occupied. Probably the worst advice I’ve ever heard and just like that, she was fixed!
The take away-if hand-talking is natural for you, you should continue that practice when appearing on-camera.
Rich Dubek is a two time Emmy award winning journalist and President of the Dubek Media Group in Tempe, Arizona. They specialize in media training and video production. https://www.dubekmediagroup.com