What Should I Do With My Hands?

If you saw Will Ferrell’s movie Talladega Nights (and for your sake, I hope you didn’t), you might remember his character’s dreadful media interview. As Ricky Bobby’s hands kept flying into the frame, he admitted, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands.”

Sure, the scene was exaggerated for comic effect. But many of our media and presentation training clients are equally unsure what they should do with their hands during media interviews and speeches.

The key is never to “lock” or “hide” your hands. No clasped hands, no hands behind the back, no hands in pockets, and no “steepled” fingers, which is when your fingertips touch one another.

Those positions are generally considered defensive (or arrogant), which not only makes you look overly-guarded, but lowers the audience’s ability to retain your message.

Waiting Hands Clasped

Clasped Hands Communicate Defensiveness and Lower Audience Retention.

Standing: Media Interviews and Speeches

When you’re not actively gesturing, there are two places you can rest your hands during standing interviews or speeches. The first option is to rest your hands at your side. It feels strange, but it looks fine to the audience. The second option, my preference, is to nest your hands in one another, keeping them at navel-level when not gesturing. Nesting is a nice option, since it allows you to gesture freely when making an important point.

One caveat: If you’re speaking at a lectern (and hopefully, you’re not), don’t keep your hands at your side. Keep them nested at navel-level, making it easier for you to gesture. And whatever you do, don’t slump over or grip the sides of the lectern.

Seated Media Interviews
For seated media interviews, you can either nest your hands loosely on your lap, or rest your hands casually atop your thighs. The key is not to clasp or grip your thighs, which makes you look nervous.

Seated Speeches 
Since most seated speeches are panel-style with a table, keep your hands nested in front of you on the table when you’re not gesturing.

Related: Body Language: How Energetic Should I Appear?
Related: Body Language: Eye Contact – Where Should I Look?