Your non-verbal signals paint a broader picture of who you are as a person. Directors pay close attention to the natural gestures of their video subjects. When they sit normally, do they learn forward or sit back, cross their legs? What are they like when they are talking normally, animated, laughing?
Actions Too Little or Too Big Distract from the Message
Sometimes, a subject’s authentic movements vanish when the cameras start rolling. Even worse, some people replace natural gestures with forced movements. Viewers quickly sense these gestures are contrived. They lose confidence in the message and lose interest in the video. On the other hand, the camera has a way of exaggerating movements if someone is unnaturally animated.
The Director’s Behavior Mirrors the Performance
A great director will help monitor their subject’s non-verbals and guide them toward the right moves. Before a shoot, I show my interviewee some gestures to indicate they may need to make some adjustments. I may put put my index finger between my eyes to signal their eyes are straying or put a finger under my chin to indicate they need to raise their head. These subtle changes will not just make the subject appear more confident on camera, but they will help change their state of mind.
A director may also need to guide the subject’s breathing. When something is new or difficult, we tend to hold our breath. If your subject is breathing unnaturally, they’ll come across as scared and anxious.
The Science Behind Empathy on Video
The person you’re interviewing often reflects the intensity of your directing. If you talk to them in a quiet voice, they’re going to do the same. This behavior is a product of what scientists call “mirror neurons” in the brain. Mirror neurons allow us to understand the emotions and actions of others. That emotional understanding is empathy. So when a director displays confidence, the subject reflects that confidence in their performance.
In the same way, mirror neurons allow your audience to empathize with your genuine emotion. This is why we feel bad when our favorite movie character dies. If you’re expressing sincere regret for a mistake, your audience will understand your emotions and more easily accept your apology. And if you’re sharing exciting news, your audience will feel that same joy. It’s why authenticity is key on camera: audiences can see through a phony smile, but they latch onto genuine humanity.
Body Language is a Universal Tool
Like facial expressions, body language often cuts across cultures, genders, and physical disabilities. The right non-verbal behaviors can attract viewers before you even start speaking. And when your body language and message are aligned, you will achieve the goal of your video performance.