What To Do With Your Hands In Public, On Stage, & On Camera
Updated: Oct 17, 2018
If you do a lot of work in public, on TV, on camera, or on stage, there's a good chance you wonder about what to do with your hands. And for good reason! When you're not using your hands, they just kind of... dangle there.
It's a bit weird.
But - what SHOULD you be doing with your hands?
The answer is: it depends.
Here are a couple things that would change the answer of what you should do with your hands.
1. Are you talking, or listening? Talking hands should be moving. Listening hands should be still. Watch this video on mute, and notice the what the hands do when someone is speaking, and when they are listening.
2. Do you want to be approachable, or untouchable? If you want to be approachable, you'll use expressive, fluid movements as you speak. If you want to be untouchable, you'll be still and stern, like JFK in the first 30 seconds of this video.
3. How much space do you have? If you're on camera with a wide lens, or up on stage, you can take as much space as you want, and you can use expansive gestures like this:
If you're in a smaller room with a smaller group, or the camera is zoomed in closer, you'll want to use smaller hand gestures.
If your hand gestures are too big, you look a little crazy. If your hand gestures are too small, you're boring to watch. Find the middle ground. (This is much easier to demonstrate face to face, which is why my clients and I connect on video chat)
4. Are you nervous? That's a trick question. Of course you're a teeny-tiny bit nervous! The real question is - do you want it to be obvious that you're nervous? I'm assuming the answer to that question is NO. So, keep your hands on a short leash, because nervous hands start to fidget by touching your hair, touching your face, adjusting your clothes, playing with your jewelry, or touching each other. When you aren't speaking, your hands should be still, not fidgety. When you are speaking, your hands should be purposeful and illustrative - there's no need for any of the preening gestures we mentioned above.
This picture is a great example of confident hands. I'm using what's called 'The Steeple,' and it's one of the most popular confident hand gestures you'll see.
Angela Merkel is widely known for using a slightly different version of the Steeple, and if you Google "Angela Merkel Hands" you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. It's become a signature of hers.
Many of my clients wonder what they should do with their hands. This is a really common question at my speaking engagements, also. But, once you know what to do with your hands, it feels wonderful!
One of my clients said, "After I finish my session with you, I feel like I could just stand up and speak right away, because I know what to do with my hands and I know how to read my audience. I feel so confident." That's exactly what I want for you.
Your hands illustrate what you are saying, and broadcast how you FEEL about what you're saying. By using the right hand gestures, you can show confidence, competence, and charisma to create an unforgettable impression.