Should I stay or should I go?

An area of speaking controversy!

Should I stand still or should I move around?

Simple: what are you trying to achieve?

In part it will depend on your character, your message and your audience.

However in the simplest terms:

  • moving around is usually about asserting personal power;
  • standing still is usually about sharing.

Picture a Head Teacher telling off a school assembly. 

Chances are that he or she will be moving about the stage, gesticulating strongly to express their annoyance.

Arms will be going all over the place and fingers will be pointing, as they pace up and down, asserting their authority.

Many speaking coaches will recommend  moving about on the stage, backing it up with phrases like 'own the room', 'assert you strength', 'take control ' and in many instances that may be exactly the right thing to do.

However notice that each of those phrases is about 'you' the speaker.

It is 'you' - owning the room; 'you' - asserting strength; 'you' - taking control.

Therefore for motivational speakers, managers, Sergeant Majors, motion on stage may well be an important physical message. 

It says: 'I am in charge, listen to me!'

Standing still on the other hand does something very different:

It does not say:

'Listen to ME!'

it says:

'Listen to my words.'

The message is now more important than the messenger.

If you imagine a speaker sharing personal feelings, displaying vulnerability, being open and honest; they are unlikely to be pacing around the stage waving their arms in the air.  

The power or 'connection' with the audience is in their words and is more likely to be supported by a sense of stillness, of standing on firm ground.

I often tell speakers that standing solidly sends its own powerful message.

I regard it as a visual metaphor.  It says:

  • 'I know where I stand; I know what I think.'
  • 'It is not about ME, it is about what I believe.'

I am not promoting standing still as some 'Golden Rule';

I am simply saying:

Be aware of what effect your physical manner has on your message.

You cannot create rapport by taking on an attitude of lecturing.

Sometimes (usually coaching / motivating) we will need our audience to buy into us before they will listen to our words, in which case 'owning the room' may be a necessary step to getting the message across.

However - and here is my point: there are other occasions when - dare I say it -
YOU really don't matter that much!

In which case, get out of the way, stand still and let your words speak for you!