Back in 2001 I was invited to deliver a speech on a local Dallas, Texas, Broadband TV station. I had been warned that a bald head needed some make-up so it would not glare or look like I had a hole in my head. One of the women at the event put some make-up on my head but there was one other thing they should have warned me about that they didn’t.
The understatement of the day would be that I am an energetic speaker. I easily become animated and energy flows from my body in abundance as I am delivering stories and humor. The energy is not just in my voice, it is also in movement in the speaking area. In my opinion, some of the energy is a release of stress, the other energy comes due to getting wrapped up in my stories and literally re-living them as I am speaking.
I arrived at the TV studio and it was intimidating. There was a sense of anxiety from all the people participating in the TV show. There was nervous laughter and the strict professionalism and seriousness of the camera operators and director added additional stress. My turn came to speak; I was introduced and immediately lunged into my dramatic story. “Lunged” is a key word!!!
There was a great sense of relief once we had all spoken and the director shouted “that’s a wrap” or something to that effect. It was then that one of the camera crew took me aside and reprimanded me for moving around the stage so fast, “You were killing us, we were struggling to keep the cameras on you because you were moving so fast”. “The audience will have to wear neck braces to be able to watch this”. I nodded my head to indicate that I understood …slow… down… the… movements… so that they are not negatively impacting the speech, …especially if it is being filmed.
Why Use Purposeful Movement?
1. The movement can help guide the audience’s train of thought and also make transitions powerful and clearer
2. It adds visual detail to the structure of the presentation
3. It helps you move to a different area of the stage and engage with even more audience members (particularly where the audience seating area is extremely wide).
10 Suggestions for Successful Purposeful Movement Techniques
1. As a general “rule”, start your speech center stage and finish in the same area
2. Purposeful movement can be from left/right, forwards/backwards and even diagonally.
3. After moving on the stage, look at the audience members in the “new quadrant” and make eye contact
4. Think about what purposeful movement you will incorporate and at what parts of your speech you will incorporate it
5. Do not pace backwards and forwards like a caged lion (unless you are discussing caged lions!)
6. What’s comfortable for you? I have heard some people advise that you stay in an area of about 6 ft. by 4 ft. If that works for you and your speech content, implement it.
7. Check out the room size ahead of time if possible. This can help you visualize your audience when practicing
8. What will work for the room size and set up? One of the most challenging locations I have delivered a keynote was to nearly 1000 students in a gymnasium. The gymnasium had bleachers with the students on each side, about 100 parents and teachers in front of me, and even more people behind on each side. I used purposeful movement to my full extent to make sure every single person in the audience felt included.
9. To understand the level of purposeful movement that can be incorporated into a speech, check out Jim Key’s website where he has his 2003 Toastmasters International World Championship winning speech with staging notes. http://www.jimkey.com/Championship/speeches.asp
10. Practice, practice, practice so the movement is fluid and natural
1) “I have discussed the efforts I have put into becoming a successful public speaker; however, let me take you back to when I was a young engineer standing in front of corporate executives answering questions and my mind went blank”.
Note: As I am saying the words “let me take you back”, I am walking slowly to the left or the right to symbolize going into the past. If my speech wording has me going into the past again, I make sure I use the same side for clarity and consistency. If I was to talk about going back to my childhood in the same speech, I would walk further than I had walked to get to the young engineer stage placement.
2) “We have talked about my humorous escapades as a teenager, now I need to take you to a different place, the place where pranks go wrong and consequences are dire”.
Note: As I am saying the words “now I need to take you to a different place”, I might decide to step backwards, or backwards and diagonal to symbolize moving into a negative story.
3) “My talk today was designed to change your life. I have a personal story that will demonstrate how my life was changed”.
Note: As I am saying the words “I have a personal story”, I might step forward center stage to symbolize moving into the positive story in my speech conclusion
1. Get an easy to remember familiar joke or short story that could incorporate lots of purposeful movement. Give the volunteers time to commit the content to memory. Ask them to deliver the joke/story and incorporate appropriate purposeful movement.
2. Provide group feedback to the participants on what works and what could be improved upon.
3. Keep it positive, fun, and meaningful