Whenever I work with one of my public speaking clients, the question of movement often arises. “When I’m speaking in front of a group, should I stand in one place or should I move around?”
Obviously, if you’re at a podium with a fixed microphone you don’t have much choice; you stay in front of the mic. But if you have a cordless microphone, a hand-held, clip-on or a headset, than you have more freedom to use the space at the front of the room.
I’m sure you’ve seen popular speakers that are always in motion. Some are quite energized about it, striding around and burning off a few calories. Others are more laid back, like they’re just out for a stroll. You might get the impression this is part of being a good speaker, part of projecting a relaxed or engaging image; you keep moving.
I’m all in favour of movement in presentation and public speaking, as long as it has a purpose, as long as it reinforces your objective: getting this message to those people. I have a problem with movement for the sake of movement, because you’re nervous, you don’t know what to do with your body or you think it makes your delivery more interesting.
Pacing doesn’t make you interesting, it gets boring when your listeners can predict what you’re going to do next. Moreover, when it gets to the point where they’re conscious of it, it becomes a real distraction.
Moving about doesn’t bring energy to your performance. Energy comes from the inside. It’s not something you generate through external movement. Pointless pacing is a waste of energy you might otherwise be investing constructively.
Constant movement doesn’t help you feel less nervous. It actually prevents you from feeling any sense of your foundation. That disconnects you from your body. Your breath gets shallow, your voice gets small, and before you know it, you’re up in your head, more nervous than ever.
Movement can be a powerful tool when it’s used judiciously and with purpose. If you’re speaking in a larger room, you might want to move right or left in order to maintain engagement with your whole audience. That makes sense, as long as it’s not just a hit and run.
You might move to a different position to signal a transition in your presentation. You might step closer to enhance your connection with your listeners. But when you continuously move about as you’re speaking, you forfeit the potential impact movement can have.
Learn to speak from a place of stillness, first. Stand on both feet, feel the ground beneath you and be connected to yourself, your message and your listeners. When you can be effective from that place of simplicity, working from the inside out, then you can explore how movement might enhance your impact in presentation or public speaking.
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