Monthly Archives: Apr 2018

Movement when speaking

Speaker at a business convention and presentations. The audience on the large number of people. The announcer with a microphone in his handsIf you read my last post, you’ve probably concluded it’s better to move during your talk than to stand still. So how do you move effectively?

Public speaking coaches are largely united on this point: move only  for a reason. Don’t just pace back and forth like a caged tiger. Some feel that’s a captivating display of energy. It’s actually an irritant that will distract people from your message.

When you move, then, have a purpose in mind. Here are a few good ones:

  1. You’re about to make a point. Take a couple of steps toward the audience to get their attention and signal that something’s coming.
  2. You’ve made your point. Take a step or two back to signal that the point’s been made and you’re about to change gears.
  3. You’re transitioning. Take a step or two to the side so your physical position signals a change in your talk. This is a great opportunity to address a new segment of the audience, too.
  4. You’re illustrating some action you are describing: “Slowly, I turned.” When words and action combine, they become more memorable.

Here are a couple of fine points:

  1. When you step to the side, lead with the foot closest to your destination. As a young speaker I failed to do that and looked so awkward people thought I was going to collapse.
  2. Don’t cross the slide projector’s beam on your way from here to there. Yeah, Steve Jobs crossed the beam, but he was Steve Jobs and could get away with it.

Here’s a final thought:

Don’t choreograph your moves. Be yourself. People want to see the real you. Your motion, when you are yourself, shows your confidence.

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To move or not to move

Man standing on a podium under spotlights, paralyzed by speech anxiety, EPS 8 vector illustration, no transparenciesShould you plant yourself behind the lectern when you speak in public? Or should you roam the stage at will?

It depends. It depends on what fits the occasion, what equipment you’re offered, and your own style of speaking. Even so, there are some extremes best avoided.

The first extreme is to just stand there behind the lectern. Lecterns are meant to hold a written speech, which is why good speakers tend to avoid them. Good speakers are not likely to read a written speech. They speak directly to their audience. Their eyes are up and active. They engage listeners with those eyes and with the sound of their voice. If they need notes, the notes are minimal—just enough to remind them of their major points and perhaps an important detail or two they want to make sure of.  That can easily be handled with a couple of 3 x 5 cards to be viewed at a glance. Good speakers know a lectern will chain them in place and may even make them look defensive, hiding behind a castle wall.

Then again, they may have little choice. If the sound system is a single microphone attached to the lectern, then they may just have to speak from the lectern. Even then, though, they can engage the audience by addressing first this person over here, and then that one up there, in a pattern that eventually includes the whole audience.

So check out your venue in advance. See how it’s set up and how the sound system works. If you are free to move around the stage, that’s your best bet. But even then, there are pitfalls to avoid. Stay tuned for our next post.

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