True story. When I was first hired at MTV, I was told to be aware of what I was doing with my hands. "The last guy did weird thing with his hands. We tried coaching him, but he couldn't get it so they got rid of him."
Yikes! This poor soul literally lost his job because of a nervous tick (we all have them as we'll cover in a later post). But really? Hands cost him a gig? Apparently so.
According to producers, hands can ruin a segment by upstaging your message. During my career alone, there was the Consumer Electronics reporter who hand-modeled products with hangnails and dirty fingers. Yuck! There was the famous model-turned-red-carpet Host whose stiff arms made her the butt of jokes. I haven't seen her on camera since. And then there was the beautiful girl with what I'll call "Italian grandmother speaking hands." What was she saying? I don't know- I was too busy watching her hands! And then there's this thing (picture below). What the heck is that?? Please for the love of Pete- do not do this. Its unnatural, and looks like a lady's private parts.
The point? Don't let your hands be the focus of your segment. So what are we supposed to do with them? Well, Dear Reader, that answer is as individual as you are. Luckily, there's a trick or two that can help set you on the right path. In my former classes, I always had my students try this: shake your hands out. Get them nice and loose. Now, 3-2-1 drop them! Where did they land? This is where your hands go naturally. However, unless you're very practiced, this trick doesn't last for more than a few seconds so try this: if you're doing a casual segment, and you happen to be wearing jeans, anchor your thumbs in the belt loop. Not for you? No problem. Here's another: place one hand behind your lower back and use only the other to lightly use expression, but again, you can only use this for a short bit -30 seconds max- or it starts to look bizarre too. If you're reporting, you likely only have a head/shoulders shot so hands aren't an issue. Or you might have a mic, or a clipboard so at least one hand is busy, but for the sake of the argument, let's say you have a Wide, plus you're wearing a Lav. There's nothing in your hands, and we can see everything. My tip for you in that case is to try this exercise: Call a friend and put them on speaker. Next, roll video on yourself while you're talking, but DO NOT watch yourself in real time. Instead, turn away from the video as you talk for 3-5 minutes. Then stop recording. Now hang up with your friend, and turn down the volume on the video to watch the playback of your body language. Chances are, sometime during that 5 minutes, you relaxed enough to be your true, organic self. Take careful note of what your hands (and the rest of your body) do when you aren't "on". Now try to incorporate your Authentic Self into your on camera presentation. I'll just bet your hands aren't the focus and you aren't doing the weird "V" thing. Good luck!