Speaking Tips – Avoiding Unnecessary Movement

Have you ever attended a speech where the speaker bounced around the stage in a completely artificial manner? Or where they had a nervous tick that distracted you from listening to their words?

Most people have!

So how can you be sure you aren’t making a fool of yourself with your movements? In this article I’m going to give you seven tips for avoiding unnecessary movement. Of course one of the big problems is going to be identifying what constitutes and unnecessary or excessive movement. For our purposes we’re going to identify unnecessary movement as any movement that distracts or irritates the audience.

1. Become aware of your movements. The first step to correcting anything is to become aware of the mistake. That applies to public speaking as much as it does to anything else. There are many ways to become aware of your movements. Video recording is one method that works well. Having a supportive group of people critique your performance is another.

2. Analyze your mistakes. Once you are aware of what movements you make it is time to identify which ones are counter-productive. To identify which ones irritate your audience. While you can use a video recording and do the analysis yourself, a supportive group will provide a more balanced view of your movements.

3. Manage the big movements. One of the mistakes you may find yourself making is pacing. That is you start walking back and forth across the stage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, your pacing back and forth can indicate to your audience either energy or passion. Or it can indicate nervousness. This is where a supportive group is invaluable. If necessary you can reduce your pacing by identifying a mark. Your mark is a spot on the stage where you are to stand. Traditionally marked by white tape as an X, your goal is to stand on top of the mark while giving your speech. A more generous technique is to lay out a six foot circle in white plastic tape or chalk. Your goal is to stay within the circle. Chalk works well because you will erase the line when you cross it.

4. Manage the gestures. The next mistake you need to check for is the too broad gesture. This often is the result of acting your gestures instead of allowing them to occur naturally. There are several possible ways to avoid excessive gestures. Holding one’s hands in front or behind one’s back is one method that is quite common. As is putting one’s hands in one’s pockets or simply down at one’s side. The key here is to avoid substituting a bad habit with an even worse one.

5. Manage the nervous ticks. We all have movements that we make when we’re nervous. Maybe it’s a case of scratching. Or rolling the neck. Or sneezing. Or scrunching up the face. These small ticks are amongst the most irritating reactions for a public speaker. A supportive group can be helpful in identifying both the tick and also a technique for resolving it.

6. Picture yourself talking at the water cooler. Everything we’ve talked about so far is caused by a public speaker performing actions that they wouldn’t normally perform. Why? Because they’re nervous. One of the best methods of eliminating these nervous habits is simply to eliminate the nervousness. One way to do this is to picture yourself in a conversation with a friend at the water cooler. Present your speech to this friend as if you were simply reading it.

7. Practice, practice, practice. Okay, let’s get serious here. The only way to eliminate unnecessary movements is to break the habits that create unnecessary movements. And doing that requires directed movement.

Michael Ortiz

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