"I'd much rather watch Tony Robbins wander around the stage than hide behind a lectern."– Blog post on the pros and cons of walking during a presentation
"I’m a walker." A good number of people who attend our programs will tell us this, as if pacing side to side on a stage is a physical trait—like eye color—over which they have no control.
Other speakers say it’s essential to walk around the stage—and into the audience. They’ve seen other speakers do it. They believe it conveys energy. They think it improves the speaker’s connection to the audience.
There’s some truth in all of the above. Some people ARE more inclined to rove the stage. Some speakers ARE more effective when they move around and even into the audience.
But walking is not enough to make you a more dynamic speaker—and can, in fact, make you a less effective speaker. Before you start stalking around the stage, here’s what you need to know.
Moving around the stage is effective, when you do it for a purpose.
For example, perhaps you’re standing at the lectern to deliver some hard-hitting facts. Then you want to humanize those facts with a story.
You could walk away from the lectern and toward the audience.
What does this do?
It provides a natural transition in tone. By moving from behind the lectern, you remove the barrier between yourself and the audience. You indicate that you want to change the relationship with them and with your material—from formal to less formal, from objective to intimate.
Once you start thinking as walking as another way to deliberately add meaning to your talks, you can see all sorts of possibilities:
This kind of choreography has no impact, of course, if you walk all the time (see next point).
There are also a couple of other pitfalls to keep in mind:
Remember, too: There are other ways you can move (gestures, body language, facial expressions) that add dynamism and don’t involve walking.
We’ve already hinted at this—and it’s pretty simple: Walk to get to a place on the stage or in the room. Then stand there. Plant your feet. Make a point. Be there for a while before you move again.
Speakers who roam nonstop not only deprive themselves of a terrific tool—choreography and smart use of the stage—they also communicate energy that’s not under control.
For audiences, non-stop pacing is, at best distracting. At its worst, it is off-putting and agitating:
As we said, the solution is to walk to some point in the room, then stop and speak from that point for a while, before walking again.
When you walk around a stage, you do in fact bring yourself closer to some members of the audience. You also take yourself farther away from others.
Before you decide to “work the room,” be sure it’s going to work. Consider:
So yes, walking CAN add energy to a presentation. But random pacing, for the sake of moving around, is not the best approach. Send a better message by being deliberate and being controlled.
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