Movement is essential in a presentation because it increases audience energy and generates a stronger connection between the presenter and the crowd. My advice for my Professional Communication and Presentation students is to “move with a purpose.” This means when you move, your goal in moving is to make eye contact with each and every member of your audience as best you can.
We’re often tempted to stand behind a podium when delivering a speech, but that podium creates many problems for the speaker. Garr Reynolds says, “Get closer to your audience by moving away from or in front of the podium. The podium is a barrier between you and the audience, but the goal of our presentation is to connect with the audience. Removing physical barriers between you and the audience will help you build rapport and make a connection” (Source). I like the idea of the podium as a barrier, and Garr Reynolds’ ideas about what makes that connection during a presentation are explored fully in The Naked Presenter. This is the textbook on delivery, so if you ever have to give a speech in your life, make sure to give it a read.
James E. Dyer, Public Speaking instructor at the University of Florida, explains that “moving across the stage provides an opportunity to eliminate energy and to capitalize on that energy. However, when moving, move with a purpose” (Source). The idea of moving purposefully comes back to nervous behaviors such as “The Rocker” or “The Lady MacBeth.” More on those anxious gestures and behaviors coming soon! We want to avoid showing the audience our anxiety and nervous energy by keeping our movements fluid and natural. “Purposeful” movement is movement that is controlled for the specific goal of interacting with all members of the audience.
Movement is a powerful tool that allows a presenter to command audience members’ attention. For example, consider a student in class texting and not paying attention to his teacher. That instructor can use movement to command the student’s attention by walking over and standing right in front of that student. The teacher uses proxemics to force the student to re-engage with classroom material. How does this work? Well, stepping from public space (12 to 25 feet) to a closer, social space (4 to 12 feet) makes people take notice because this “invasion of territory” can signal danger. We become more alert to our surroundings, and this can be a helpful practice in a presentation to help an audience member come back to the speech.
How do you use movement in your presentations?