How to Move on the Stage for Maximum Impact

Coming in November 2014!

Coming in November 2014!

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’ve often told 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

There are several reasons for moving on stage but you’re about to pick up two of the most important.


 Movement Tool Number 1 – 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.

That’s an example of letting the action drive. Of course, when I go back the next day to my VP’s office, I walk back to where the office is represented on stage. That’s letting the action in my story prompt my movement on stage.

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, his movements cease to matter. Even the important movements and gestures get lost in a whirlwind of movement.


Movement Tool Number 2 – 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. The left is the past and the right is the future. Therefore, imagine how I might move when giving this part of my speech:

“Now fast-forward 14 years to today…2014. My re-hire rate has now reached…”

When I say the phrase “Fast forward 14 years to today,” I physically, yet subtly, walk from my audience’s left up the timeline to my audience’s right to symbolize the difference between the year 2000 and the year 2014. Again, this is subtle so it might only be a couple of steps. Why is this important for me to walk up the timeline? Two reasons:

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

For example, later in this message I say, “I’ll tell you what made the difference between my failure in 2000 and my success today [I walk back down the timeline to my audience’s left where the year 2000 is represented]. After my embarrassment in the year 2000, I re-dedicated myself to the art of public speaking…” and then I physically travel back up the timeline (from 2000-2014) when I explain the processes I learned during those years.

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


Three Caveats that make the difference between a connection and a rejection

Caveat #1: Please remember that you have to do the timeline backwards for you so that it’s right for your audience. In other words, your audience’s left is your right, etc. You’re like an aerobics instructor! So when you want to walk back in the past, move to your right, which is your audience’s left.

Caveat #2: Not all cultures view timelines from the left to the right. Therefore, if you’re traveling overseas or you do not live in a country where English is the primary language, it would behoove you to research how the culture views timelines. Otherwise you might walk from left to right when they might view time as front to back. In that case, you’ll only promote confusion not clarity.

Caveat #3: Much of speaking is about subtlety. If you’re being too obvious about what you’re doing, it will break your connection with your audience. Therefore, when you move, make it subtle. I’ve seen some speakers move the entire length of the stage for their timeline. That’s not necessary. A few steps in one direction should suffice when moving to the future or back to the past. The same goes for characters in dialogue. Don’t travel so far between characters. A subtle head turn (and maybe a change in posture) should suffice to allow us audience members to know which character is talking. Be subtle.

What you just picked up are two important reasons for moving on stage. Now let’s look at one reason for standing still.


When should I stand Still on Stage?

If you’ve studied my materials at all then you know the importance of having a Foundational Phrase to drive your memorable and repeatable message home to your audience. However, there is also an important delivery tool to use when delivering that phrase.

Normally, when you’re having a conversation with your audience, you scan the room and look individuals in their eyes. However, when you get to your most important phrase (often your Foundational Phrase) it creates quite an impact when you stand completely still, look directly at one individual in your audience, and hold his/her gaze for your entire foundational phrase.

For example, I scan the audience until I get to the phrase where I say, “Your dream is not for sale” and that’s when I look at one person and hold his/her gaze. Then, once I finish the phrase, I go back to scanning the room and moving if appropriate.  In other words, hold their gaze for your entire phrase.


What’s a next step you can take to improve your delivery?

To learn more about delivery strategies that deepen the authentic connection you build with your audience, consider viewing my Dynamic Delivery Devices DVD set.


Your Turn

How do YOU use the stage to make your speech visual? What are some strategies that work for you?

Craig Valentine

Leave a Reply 12 comments