Good speaking is the art of keeping an audience engaged. That’s because speakers want to communicate – they want everyone to remember what they say. If you’re to achieve this goal, you need to get people to listen … and to keep them listening, too.
Some of this can be achieved by how you structure your speech: stories, humour and repetition can ensure your remarks are more memorable and engaging. Some of it can be done through voice, varying your tone, pitch and pace can work wonders for keeping things interesting. And some of it – though sparingly! – can be done through visual aids, if you’re using them.
But there’s one more way to keep things moving while on-stage, with your body.
First, there are gestures, these can be powerful if deployed properly. Pointing is a bad idea; it can seem aggressive. Moving your hands constantly is distracting. However, neutral and decisive gestures, at key points in your remarks, give your audience a clear indicator as to what is important in your speech .
Movement adds emphasis, then, but it can also keep people’s attention.
Take the stage itself: it can be a large space, and many speakers don’t use it effectively, they stay cramped in a single corner, speaking as if their feet are rooted to the ground. This can be pretty boring to watch.
Instead, consider moving around a little. You don’t want to be running from one side of the stage to another constantly, but think about your speech carefully: are there parts of it where moving could illustrate your point?
If you change perspective during your remarks, why not change your position on the stage to reflect that? If your visual aids feature important content in different places on a screen, why not shift your position in relation to them? If you address the audience directly, shouldn’t you move closer to them when you do?
The trick is to use these techniques carefully – and never overuse them. They are powerful in small doses, but very distracting beyond that. Similarly, if you’re going to move, do so confidently and, just as you carefully pace your speaking voice, make your movements moderate, too.
In other words, think of your physicality as an extension of your speaking toolkit, use it to emphasise your argument just as you employ other techniques for the same effect. You’ll keep your audience’s attention if you do.