Body language is as important as word-choice or diction when it comes to being a great speaker. How to move on stage, and what gestures to make– is absolutely key to winning over an audience. Do it well and you’ll seem confident and dynamic, do it badly and you will distract your audience.
Some of this is simple: if you are displaying slides on a screen, and want your audience to look at them, move closer to the screen. The audience will naturally follow you around the stage, so use your space to direct their attention appropriately. Of course, this only works if slides are at eye level! On a big stage, your slides might be above your head – if that’s the case, simply gesture in their direction.
Moving too much will distract an audience, precisely because they will naturally follow you wherever you go. At all times you need your audience focused on what you’re telling them – not on keeping up with your aimless strolls across the stage!
So stay still when you can, and when it makes sense to do so. Standing confidently in a single position, but using gestures carefully to accentuate your points, will add an air of authority to your stage presence. Keep those gestures open and strong – that is, palms upwards and, when you move your hands, do so decisively, but not aggressively. Indicate rather than point.
These periods of relative stillness will enable you to make the most of your space at key moments during your presentation. Think about mapping your movements beforehand: is there a central space on stage that can act as the “power spot” from which you can deliver your key arguments? Think about the ‘stand and land’ rule: when you have a key point to make, be still. Walking can be powerful when creating interest – but it can distract from that killer line.
As you move through your structure, from introduction to conclusion, does it make sense also to move in space?
You can in this way “locate” particular aspects of your speech in certain areas of the stage – and when you move to those places, your audience will subliminally follow your structure by associating a particular physical space with a given idea. If you are telling a story, move across the stage as if through time; if you’re debating a point, stand elsewhere when giving the counter-argument.
In all cases, don’t over-do it. The key with moving on stage is to do so carefully, confidently – and sparingly. Don’t jump around; it will distract the audience. Don’t occupy a given space for only a few seconds; that will distract them, too. Rather, arrive at the appropriate spot and spend some time there.
From moving closer to the audience to emphasise a point to returning to your “base” as you conclude, movement can mark meaning, though remember it can also obscure meaning, too. Planning how and when you move will help eliminate the “wandering speaker” from your presentation. When on stage, by all means move. But combine your movements with your words, don’t just stroll!