And we sometimes do it to music – move it that is! Public Speakers who command the audience’s attention often need to consider not just what they say or even how they say it; they also need to think about where they say it from.

At a recent convention I was asked for some ideas about using movement when speaking, and so this is for you Fran – and how’s Mareeba?

Movement attracts our attention. The TV producers know that; let’s face it, no matter how attractive or ruggedly handsome the newsreader is, just watching them read the autocue is as exciting as watching paint dry. That’s why, about 10 seconds into the item, we get the ubiquitous video clip. It’s movement! It catches our wandering attention and keeps us sitting in the chair instead of going to the kitchen and putting the kettle on.

It’s the same for a speaker. If we just stand still behind the lectern we can probably put our listeners to sleep in about five minutes flat. Our ideas may be world breaking; our word pictures breathtaking; but if all we do is stand there and deliver them we are missing out on one of the greatest emotional tools we have to connect personally with our audience – that is movement.

So what makes for effective movement when speaking? Well, movement must have a purpose. Simply striding around the stage or the speaking area will create more of a distraction than a connection. So we must use movement to underscore our ideas, and to ensure that all members of the audience feel a personal connection with us, the speaker.

There are one or two simple rules that we can learn to help us orchestrate our presentation.

First, begin by commanding the space, and that means talking up a position in the centre of the designated area. Using a strong stance, we look as if we mean business. We can only do this if we know our material really well – there is no substitute for practice folks!

From here we have many options to add silent messages to our audience by simply moving. For instance, I have just finished one of my main points and I want you, the audience, to take a moment to absorb what I have just said, and to prepare you for something new. So I take one or two short paces backwards. This has the effect of appearing to momentarily disconnect you from the audience, while at the same time you remain in control. It creates a slight hiatus that prepares your audience to consider a new idea. When ready to go on, merely take that one or two steps forward again to reconnect with the now eagerly anticipating audience.

We know that we must make our message personal to everyone in the audience and that means actually looking at them, and using our eye contact to establish that very important personal connection. But what about a larger audience? We have no chance of connecting with them personally surely?

Well, with the aid of optical illusion and the use of movement, we certainly can. Instead of speaking to one individual, we divide the audience into groups – I use mental triggers like ‘Back Left’ and ‘Middle Centre’ or ‘Front Right’ – now if I move across the stage in the general direction of the group and then talk to the general direction of that group an amazing thing happens. Everyone in that group now thinks that I am talking personally to them. It all about that optical illusion I mentioned. Marvellous stuff!

So if we want to include all those on the left hand side of the audience, we move across the stage in a comfortable, easy paced walk and spend a few moments talking to them. Then we can purposefully wander back across the stage towards the right hand side and do the same there; before easily moving back to the centre.

And that’s the key; no matter where we move to within our speaking space, we should always return to centre. In the centre, we are in control; we can see the whole audience and thus monitor their feedback. If we find that tells us some part of our audience may not be fully attentive, we can use movement to re-connect with them.

The trick to making our stage movement seem effortless is to make it easy-paced and natural; and to talk as we move; never taking our eyes off the audience.

Quick, rapid movements can confuse your listeners who are trying to absorb your words and comprehend your message, while at the same time trying to follow you as you dart around the stage. It’s self-defeating, so don’t do it.

Movement, to look natural and to enhance your speaking needs to be subtle, gentle and flowing. It should be a way for you to improve your ability to connect with the audience, so avoid making it a distraction.

So there Fran, my thoughts on movement while speaking; hope it helps you and those in Mareeba; and good luck with the educational session.

And don’t forget, we all “Like to Move It, Move It” – to music of course.


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