It’s time for your presentation to begin. Your energy is flowing. Your anxiety is mounting.
You can’t stand still. You have to pace.
Oh, now that’s a solution! For you, yes, but what about for your audience? How exciting is it to watch a speaker pace back and forth in the same rhythm, regardless of the message?
Rather than moving compulsively — connecting your movement to your anxiety — to keep your audience engaged, you need to move strategically, connecting your audience to your message.
Here are three strategies you can use every day.
Movement can help you punctate your speaking to create shorter speaking paragraphs. Just as long paragraphs may be too dense to read, long speaking may be too dense to listen to.
While in writing you break up paragraphs by starting a new line — creating more visual space — in speaking, you can break up your “paragraphs” by moving, creating more attention space. Remember to move as you transition from idea to idea, creating white space, not static.
When you have to deliver your punch line, call to action, or key message, movement can help you add a highlight. In writing, you add a highlight by adding yellow highlights, red marks, or italics. You use visual cues to direct the audience’s attention.
In speaking, you can add a highlight by adding different rhythms. If you walk forward and then suddenly stop, you use a rhythmic cue to direct your audience’s attention. Just as the brightness of the yellow marker commands attention, the suddenness of the stop commands attention.
For example, “Listen to what I’m saying now” becomes bolder in your audience’s mind if you pause suddenly before saying “now.” That sudden rhythm change is what makes the highlight apparent.
When you want to make it absolutely clear that you care, that you have passion for your position and conviction in your proposal, movement can help you. In writing, you add emotional emphasis by adding exclamation points, italics, or bold face. In speaking, you can add emotional emphasis by taking strong, deliberate steps forward — usually in sync with strong gestures.
So, if you say, “Yes, it’s time to change” while you’re moving forward, you can add tremendous emphasis to your point. The strong quality of movement is what emphasizes your conviction.
The next time you have the urge to pace away your anxiety, breathe, take a slow exhale, and focus on moving with purpose and power.