The Right Way To Gesture For Media Interviews
I made a mistake during a recent interview. Yes, even Mr. Media Training gets it wrong sometimes, and I wanted to share my lesson learned with readers of this blog.
First, the background. I’ve already written a couple of times (here and here) about the right way to gesture during media interviews. But those articles didn’t mention one critical point about gesturing that can hurt your next interview.
In general, you should gesture naturally during media interviews and public speeches. Spokespersons who don’t gesture look unnatural, uncomfortable, and nervous.
But there’s one important caveat to that rule: Don’t over-gesture during interviews done via webcam or Skype.
Why? Because the video quality from webcams is rarely as good as standard video. Standard video is broadcast with 30 frames per second – in other words, each second of video has 30 different still shots. As every television viewer knows, the human eye perceives 30 still shots per second as constant motion.
But webcams usually capture fewer frames per second, sometimes closer to 15 frames per second. As a result, fast movements – including waving arms and moving hands – usually come out blurred, jumpy, or both. That’s a lesson I learned during a recent Skype interview, when I forgot to account for the slower technology. As a result, a few of my gestures turned out jumpy and blurred – most definitely not the image I’m going for.
Therefore, I’m going to modify my previous advice regarding gesturing.
For Standard Television Interviews: Gesture as you would naturally in everyday life.
For Webcam/Skype Interviews: Use fewer, smaller, and slower gestures. That doesn’t mean you should be stiff and passionless. But it means you’ll have to show your intensity in other ways, including expressive facial expressions and smaller, more deliberate movements.
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Related: How To Gesture For Media Interviews
Related: What Should I Do With My Hands?
Thanks for sharing your insight– it just goes to show we can all keep learning! I never considered the time delay in Skype and other webcam interviews, so this is most helpful.
I understand your point but I disagree with the remedy. The problem is that any modification to natural body language can come across as planned and therefore disingenuous. The camera reads disingenuous as a lie. You cannot fool the camera and it will always lean toward revealing the lie instead of reinforcing the truth, even at 15 FPS.
The technology is a known quantity. The audience is sophisticated enough to distinguish between hi-res and low-res. You may not have liked what you saw in the playback but you’re your own worst critic. Show the same footage to the uninitiated and ask if they think the gestures you didn’t like managed to convey the point. I think you’ll get a variety of responses, most of them different from your own. Modifying your performance for the technology is already enough of a reality.
Lastly, we’re now in a universe where the low-res webcast and the high definition video are often captured by the same camera simultaneously. Modifying your body language to accommodate the webcast leaves you stilted in the hi-def video. It’s better to blame the technology to those watching the low-res webcast than explain why you seemed so stiff to those watching the hi-def.
Enjoy the blog. Thanks for letting me give my two cents.
It’s nice to see you back on the blog – thanks for your comment.
I agree with your point that body language has to be natural to be viewed as authentic, but I don’t agree that any modification to body language is necessarily disingenuous.
Here’s an example: When I’m around my friends, I tend to be sillier than I am in front of my clients. Both are completely natural for me, but I bring out different sides of my personality depending on the context. That same dynamic tends to be true for most of us.
The same is true of public speaking – most people don’t only have one form of body language that they use for every circumstance, everytime, but rather a range. The key to modifications is to make sure the changes you’re recommending lie somewhere in the natural range for each speaker.
Thanks again for your comment – I always appreciate your smart viewpoint!