TIP: Walking and Talking: Remember, when you speak, your body is there to help connect you and your message to your audience.
You have essential, change-making ideas and information to share.
Perhaps you are in a meeting or giving a presentation.
No matter the setting, you need to bring along your whole body to the task. Any good idea needs and deserves your full involvement as does your audience in order that the message is more swiftly and easily understood.
As usual, the tricky part is the how. How do we move effectively? What if you feel odd moving? What’s right?
What is effective movement?
Effective movement is movement that is directly connected to our message and does not contradict. When we are aligned with voice, non-verbals, and message we send one coherent communication. Then our verbal message is enhanced, clarified and reinforced by our physical movement.
It is different from choreography.
Choreography is specifically connected with dance – and literally means “dance writing.” We don’t need to be scripted. Simple movement in response to our thoughts is perfect. We may have to reconnect with our natural gestures and movement, or learn to trust that they are appropriate.
In theatre, actors’ movement is called blocking. This term comes from the days when directors used small blocks to represent actors as they planned stage movement.
A director’s goal in blocking a play is to make the relationships and the story clear to the audience – for it to make sense. As speakers, we want to use the same process and think about how our physical movement will clarify our message for our audience. How we move in space, interact with it, and impact it all send strong non-verbal messages and we want it aligned with our verbal message.
If a director’s blocking is good, it seems natural and spontaneous. It appears to spring from the needs and desires of the character in that moment. All the movement seems honest and supports the story at hand. Speakers who bring that same organic, natural feeling to their movement on stage connect more strongly with their audience and are more easily understood.
Often if a speaker’s movements become too practiced and tied to each nuanced phrase – it becomes too much – too cumbersome, too mannered – too fake.
Be wary of cheerleading movements.
Sometimes blocking can seem off rhythm The words and movements are almost syncopated. And the movements are often quite literal in reference to the words being spoken. We often identify this as cheerleading movement.
READY (clap!) OK! (fist in the air!)
Our blocking as speakers is best if in response to our audience.
Actors on stage are in dialogue with the audience. A character in a play is in dialogue with the other characters on stage – and the choice of movements is directly related to getting what they need from the other actors. The same must be true of the speaker.
If a speaker is focused on themselves, they will appear to be pacing and nervous. On the other end of the spectrum, they can appear to be parading themselves. To speak effectively, we want to move in response to the audience and how they are reacting to what we are saying. We move to or away, provide gesture or stillness, all depending upon the audience’s needs.
To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question:
- Should I plant my feet?
Well, yes, if that is the best connection to your audience. Don’t plant your feet if it makes you feel cut off from the audience. Also, yes, because grounding oneself at the outset provides a beginning point for the audience. They know the presentation is beginning.
- Should I move?
Yes, if it connects you to your audience. No, if it is about you and your needs. Physical movement needs to have engaged, purposeful meaning and should flow like it does when in conversation with a friend.
- Should I go out into the audience? Is that better?
It’s better if the audience needs that – but if they need more to see you, then stay where you can see them. Walking in the audience does not mean better connection with the audience.
- In a meeting, versus a large speaking venue, is standing better than sitting?
If it is about the audience – yes. If it is about you, no, – And oddly enough, standing is not in and of itself about the person standing. In actuality, standing is deferential. Do you respect your audience enough to stand? Or is it about you and your embarrassment about taking the focus that keeps you seated? The latter is not as helpful to your audience.
Movement Mastery Tips:
- Be a Border Collie: Move on stage in direct response to the audience to keep them engaged and connected to you.
Avoid wandering or pacing. That’s about you and your nervous energy and not the audience.
- Let your hand and arm gestures flow. Let them move to help you form your thoughts and share them with your audience. If they are enhancing your message they will not be too much.
- “The Flight Attendant” – Parallel movement of your hands and/or arms up and down is not effective for your audience.
- Hands should not be more enthusiastic than your voice because they can become distracting.
- Unilateral hand and arm movement is generally more organic than hands in unison – unless you are showing how big the fish that you caught was.
Know and Own the space. Fill the space with you, your energy, and your ideas!