How to Breathe Life into Your Stories with Movement

Patricia Fripp once told me, “Craig, people won’t remember what you say as much as they’ll remember what they see when you say it.” In other words, you must make your speeches very visual.

I often tell people that speaking involves a series of scenes. You move from one story and scene into another. But these scenes must be visible and a great way to make them visible is to move with a purpose.

 Two Major Reasons for Moving on Stage

Reason #1: Let Time Prompt your Movement on Stage

All stories involve the element of time, which means you can use the imaginary timeline on stage for greater impact. In North America (and in most countries where English is the first language) we read a timeline from the left to the right. Take a look at the timeline in action here.

Keep in mind that the movement should be subtle. I’m not running to the other wall. No, I’m just taking a few natural steps.

Why is this important? Two reasons:

  1. It makes the story clearer clear for my audience
  2. It allows me to eventually do a visual AND verbal call back to places on the timeline.

For example, towards the end of my speech, I can walk back to that spot onstage where I first joined Toastmasters (and maybe even point down to it with an open hand) and say something like, “But what if I had never joined Toastmasters? Where would I be today?”

This call back is visual, verbal, emotional, and clear for my audience members all because I set the stage up as a timeline and walked it.


Reason #2: Let the action in your story prompt your movement on stage

I have a story where I say the following:

I told my Vice President, “John, before I say yes to you, I have to go home to talk to my wife about this.” So I went home to my wife and said… When I make that statement, I physically walk from where my VP’s office is represented on stage to where my home is represented on stage. Then, after I have the conversation with my wife at home, I then go back to the office and so you’ll see me walk back to where the office is represented onstage. Take a look for yourself.

That’s an example of letting the action drive.

If you’re telling a story about standing in line, guess what? You should stand quite still throughout that scene.

When a speaker keeps moving at all times, the speaker’s movements cease to matter. Even the important movements and gestures get lost in a whirlwind of movement. It’s like reading a book and highlighting everything. When you highlight everything, you highlight nothing.

Your Turn

How do YOU use the stage to make your speech visual?

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Craig Valentine

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