Video Marketing: How to Have Charisma on Camera

Heidi Haskell on Content Marketing

For video marketing, we can all take some tips from Mr. Bean about what not to do on camera.  Although he’s a lovable character, he perfectly demonstrates low charisma. He doesn’t say much at all, and yet we can all agree that Mr. Bean has some competence issues. What are we basing this on?

His nonverbal communication says everything we need to know.   

video marketing stats callout

Source: “Body Language for Leaders”

It is still absolutely important to put time and effort into the quality of the content you are putting out there.

But if you’re new to video production you’ll want to focus the same amount of energy, if not more, on understanding how you come off to others on camera, and learning how to intentionally present the nonverbal communication that will engage others the most.

Learn From the Most Popular Ted Talk Videos

The friendly folks over at Science of People researched hundreds of hours of Ted Talks. They found trends in speakers who were engaging, and in those who were not.

Those who smiled for at least 14 seconds or longer were rated with higher intelligence. Regardless of whether or not the topic you are speaking about is happy, Vanessa Van Edwards from Science of People suggests that you find something to smile about.

Vocal variety is also a huge engagement factor. Those who varied their volume, pace, and emotionality throughout their talk were rated as more charismatic. This means you’ll need to work to bring some natural enthusiasm into what you are saying.

The most popular Ted Talks used an average of 465 hand gestures, while the least popular Ted Talks used an average of 272. This clearly points to the fact that hand gestures are significant in engaging your audience (see what I did there?).

We’ll go into more detail on each of these below.

Hand Gestures in Video Marketing provides an excellent video on the use of hand gestures. They not only help with engaging who you are speaking to, but studies have also shown that when someone can see your hands, they rate you as more trustworthy.

Hand gesturing can also help you to think more clearly about what you are speaking about, since it activates a particular brain region which helps with this.

It’s not important to get a full body shot for your video, but make sure that the shot at least includes your hands.

There are three types of hand gestures you can use: emblems, illustrators, and regulators.

Emblems are hand gestures that have an agreed upon meaning and are used instead of words.

emblem hand guesture for video marketing

Spock is demonstrating the emblem hand gesture for, “Live long and prosper.”

Illustrators are used help clarify your speech:

fonzi illustrator hand gesture for video marketing

The Fonz is using an illustrative hand gesture, which accentuates or clarifies his speech.

Regulators are used to direct the conversation:

regulator hand gesture for video marketing

The Supremes are using a regulator hand gesture, suggesting that the conversation stop, in the name of love.

Avoid using the fig leaf, with your hands clasped in front of you. This suggests that you are insecure or uncomfortable:

fig leaf hand gesture video marketing

Nick from the Backstreet Boys (second from left) is demonstrating the fig leaf hand position, which indicates lower confidence to your audience.


Also avoid wringing your hands, playing with your hair, etc.  This is something that we tend to do when we are nervous.

To gesture effectively, keep your hands at waist level for the most part, and keep arms away from your body.

Try not to over gesture, especially with your hands above your shoulders.  This makes you look less powerful.

Focusing on Facial Expressions

Dr. Paul Ekman has done extensive research on the subject of facial expression and has helped to change the way we think about expression.  In studying and proving universal expression of emotion, Dr. Paul Ekman asked a New Guinea man, living in an isolated, stone age culture, to make facial expressions based on 4 different circumstances.  

This man had no way of being influenced by media, and yet he still demonstrated the same facial expressions as the rest of the world would. The photographs of his expressions can be found on The Ekman Group’s website, where you can test your facial recognition skills.

There are a total of seven universal facial expressions.  Five of them are negative and you do not want to display these in your video, unless it’s intentional.  These negative expressions include: contempt, anger, disgust, sadness, and fear.

If you’re new to video, it’s common to express fear in your face. To help with this, you’ll want to be aware of the fact that if you’re nervous, you might raise your eyebrows, widen your eyelids to show the whites of your eyes, and you might be taking deep breaths.

By bringing awareness to these nervous expressions, you can work to counteract them. We’ll also talk about helping to get your confidence up later in the article.

The last two universal facial expressions are positive, and you absolutely want these in your video: surprise and happiness.

surprise expression for video marketing

Lucille Ball demonstrating the facial expression of surprise.

happy expression for video marketing

Mary Tyler Moore demonstrating a happy facial expression.

Be aware of your resting face. If you’re filming with someone else in the shot and you’re waiting for your turn to talk, tune into what your face is doing. When our facial muscles relax, we can often look tired, bored, or angry.

It’s important when you are on film to consciously activate your facial muscles. Practice this in the mirror so that you can look as natural as possible while you are doing this. Your goal here is to look alert, interested, and happy.

It’s also possible that you may need to practice relaxing certain areas of your face when you are talking. Sometimes during deep concentration, it’s common to tense the area between your eyebrows. This is a partial anger micro expression and might give off the wrong impression to your audience about how you are feeling.

Lastly, please don’t forget about smiling. Again, you’ll want to make sure that you come off as natural as possible. People can tell when you are not smiling authentically.

The indicators of a natural smile are brightness in your eyes and engaged upper cheeks. This is another one to practice in the mirror.

Vitality of Voice

If you are nervous or unsure of yourself, it’s common to use up-speak, which means that you raise your pitch at the end of each sentence, like you would in asking a question.

Watch and make sure that you are ending non-interrogative sentences by lowering your pitch. This will make you sound more confident in what you are saying.

It’s also common to use a higher pitch in general while speaking if you are nervous. Before you start filming, check and make sure that you are using the lower part of your voice. Lower voices are associated with power and authority.

Throughout the video, make sure that you also use inflection in your voice. If you are monotone, or close to it, your audience will lose interest and tune out.  If you’re not showing excitement in your voice about what you are talking about, why should they be excited?

You’ll also want to vary your volume and rate of speech. For example, when you get to an important point, slow down your pace and lower your volume. It grabs attention and it makes you sound confident.

Vanessa Van Edwards even suggests using vocal variety queues in your queue cards if that helps you.  

Maximizing Posture and Space

Our bodies will always tell the truth of how we are feeling by how much space we take up. The good news is that you can change your state and the way others perceive you by changing how you hold yourself.

The more open your body is, the more confident you will feel. When your body is open, it stimulates testosterone and lowers cortisol levels.  This increases feelings of power:

powerful body language for video marketing

Wonder Woman is demonstrating powerful & open body language.

The more closed your body is, the more stressed and insecure you will feel. Others will also perceive you as less competent.

closed body language video marketing

Here’s our friend Mr. Bean demonstrating a low power pose.

At all times when you are on camera, tune your awareness into what you are doing with your body. Are you communicating to yourself and to your audience that you feel empowered? Make sure your chin is slightly up, shoulders are back and down, and your chest is not collapsed.

Conveying Charisma on Camera

Some people have charisma naturally. For those who don’t, it is possible to learn how to be charismatic. Studies have shown that there are specific traits that coincide with being perceived as charismatic.

Embrace Imperfections

Those who are charismatic embrace their imperfections and are okay with being vulnerable. This makes them more relatable to others. In your video, don’t try to be perfect. Be yourself and don’t cut out all of your mistakes. Authenticity is what grabs people.

Leave Narcissism At The Door

Charismatic people are not narcissists.

They focus their attention on those they are with at the moment. It’s okay to talk about yourself in your video, as long as your focus is to offer something of direct value to your audience.

Studies have shown that besides food and shelter, everyone has the need to feel valued. Tap into that and set your intention to make your video for your audience’s benefit.

Forget About Gossip

Those with charisma try not to gossip about others. Spontaneous trait transference occurs when you talk about other people.

This means that whatever trait you are saying someone else has, the person’s brain who is listening to you can’t help but associate this trait with you as well.

Aside from the fact that it’s probably better not to spread bad juju anyways, you want others to think about you positively, so try not to smack talk your competitors in your videos.

Talk About Topics You Care About

It’s hard to have charisma when you are talking about topics you don’t care about. Try as much as possible to film on subjects that strike a chord with you.

Ad Lib Adds Personality

Lastly, in your video, try not to follow your script line by line. It’s hard to come off as engaging, or even authentic, when you are delivering a preorganized set of words.

Try to ad lib wherever you can. If you are having difficulty with this, I highly recommend incorporating some improv classes into your preparation plans.

They are extremely helpful with getting you to loosen up and allow spontaneous creativity to come forward. Your audience will thank you.

Before Filming

It turns out that confident people are more influential and so it’s important to get your confidence level up before filming. Amy Cuddy gives a great Ted Talk on the power of power stances before a stressful situation.

Power stances are any stance where your body is completely open and taking up as much space as possible. This can be either while sitting or standing.

Just like your posture while filming reflects how you feel and how others perceive you, how you hold your body before going into filming will have an overall affect on your performance.

I’d like to stress that fact that your physiology will actually change, based on the way you hold yourself. Just like an athlete takes measures to make sure he is in the optimal state before a game, you also have the power to do the same before a performance.

power post for video marketing

Ron Burgundy and friends demonstrate power poses.

Amy explains that the reason why our physiology adjusts to feel more powerful when we are holding power poses is because a power pose is what our bodies do naturally when we feel powerful. This is a universal expression.

If you hold a power pose when you are not feeling particularly powerful, you are communicating to your brain that you are in fact in power and you are more likely to feel powerful as a result.

Spend 2 to 5 minutes before you go on set and hold a power pose (In an office, a closet, anywhere you can get privacy for just a few minutes). You should notice a significant boost in your confidence level since you’ll have more testosterone pumping through your body (true for both men and women).

power poses on camera

One of Amy Cuddy’s Slides from her presentation, showing Oprah and Mick Jagger Power Posing.

Music can also affect how we feel. Try listening to a music playlist that helps you to feel powerful before you go on set.

Have a journal of successful and powerful moments in your life. Reread your journal before going into filming. By reliving these memories, it may help you to trigger the physiology you had during these great achievements.

Do some deep belly breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 7 seconds and out through your nose for 7 seconds. If you are at all nervous, this will help to calm you down.

If there is anything else that helps you to achieve your optimal state, make sure you make time to incorporate this into your preparation routine.

Lastly, confidence tends to appear when there is no longer novelty in what you are doing. Keep practicing and you will practice your way to confidence.

Avoid Having a Mr. Bean Moment on Film

You’ve got 7 seconds for your audience to decide if they want to continue listening to what you have to say. Do as much as you can prior to filming to fine tune your nonverbal communication so that you are sending the right message from the start.

Record practice videos so you can easily evaluate yourself and make changes where needed. Look for how much space your body is taking up. Are your hand gestures adding to what you are saying? Is your face communicating positive emotion?

Don’t try to be perfect. Your goal here is to optimize your natural state. You want to be as authentic as possible.

Focus on learning the words in your script, but don’t neglect your body language.

Maya Angelou put it very well when she said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you can harness the power of controlling your effect on others through body language, you will undoubtedly create a successful video that will have a lasting, positive effect on your audience.


The Ekman Group
Science of People Body Language For Leaders
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are | Amy Cuddy | TED Talks
Khemeia Consulting: Body Language Tips For Video Marketing with Vanessa Van Edwards
How To Increase Your Influence With Vanessa Van Edwards
The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph | TEDxRyersonU