To Move or Not to Move – When Presenting

Looking at various article and blogs there would at first sight appear to be a dilemma in the minds of presentation experts as to whether it is good practise to move around when giving a presentation. Some people state that the speaker should stand up straight and still, feet slightly apart, with most of your weight on the balls of your feet and hands at your side. While others suggest that you should step out from behind the lectern and move around the stage area while you talk.

So which is it to be?

Let us start with the basic premise that the speaker is the most important visual aspect of the presentation. Audiences want to see who is talking; they want to see some positive body language reinforcing what is being said. They rarely like the “voice for the gods” effect created by a speaker who is not clearly visible.

So, for my part, I totally agree with the idea of moving out from behind the lectern. Let your audience see you. Lecterns basically just get in the way. They create a barrier between you and your audience and create the feeling that you are talking down to your audience, rather than talking with them, which is a far better approach to gaining your audience’s engagement.

Movement attracts attention. It stimulates our visual senses and people pay far more attention to something that is moving than something that is standing still. So logically, if you want to be centre of attention, which as a presenter you should, then moving around will attract more attention to you as a speaker.

However, if there is too much movement that law of attraction can have the opposite affect. People are so attracted by your movement that is all that they concentrate on, the movement, not what you are talking about.

Many novice speakers move because of nervous tension, rather like a tiger pacing up and down the edge of its enclosure. The movement helps to relieve some of the speaker’s tension, but will end up distracting an audience from what is being said. Hence the advice from many presentation coaches to stand still, when giving a presentation.  Regular to-ing and fro-ing also tends to break the “little repetitive things irritate” rule of presenting.

So if you are going to move, move with a purpose. Make the movement fit with what you are saying. Some research suggests that if there are, for example, three aspects to your presentation you should stand in three different locations on the stage (or front of the room) for each different point. E.g. stand stage right when you are talking about what happened in the past, move to centre stage when you talk about what is happening now, and then stand stage left when you talk about the future. The audience then associate your journey across the stage with the journey you are describing. If later on in the presentation you want to refer back to “how it used to be” walk over to stage right, to compound what you are saying.

In general, if you can move closer to your audience, it will help to reinforce, an important point of your presentation.

But of course there is one definite rule, do not cross the beam of your projector. Set the room up so that you can move around without creating a shadow on your slides.

Overall, the answer has to be “To Move” but to move with a purpose, other than just letting off steam.

By Graham Young

Young Markets


5 Responses to To Move or Not to Move – When Presenting

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  3. […] Nothing says, “I have no confidence in myself or my message” quite like fidgeting. Picking at your nails, excessively using hand gestures, playing with your hair, or pacing are all nervous bad habits that fall into this category. A good presenter knows how to master their movements at the appropriate times. […]

  4. […] Article on public speaking stage movement  To move or not to move while presenting […]

  5. […] your audience, reduce any barriers that are getting in the way.  Be careful about approaching too closely to audience members, however. This can be viewed as […]

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