Presentation Movement: Yea or Nay?

Presentation Movement: Yea or Nea?

There are basically two stances when it comes to presentation movement:

1. Move naturally to reflect how you’d communicate in a normal (non-presentation) state. If that involves aimless wandering and/or the use of spur of the moment gesturing as well as other non-verbal communication techniques, then so be it.         

2. Meticulous planning of your movement so as not to distract or take-away from the actual message you hope to promote. Movement in effect is carefully evaluated and judged on the basis of adding or subtracting value to your talk.           

Many a professional and entrepreneur get caught up in this dilemma as far as choosing which approach to go with.

Let me be straight up with you. Considering one or the other for the purpose of trying to make your presentation great and well received is unto itself a win. That kind of deliberate action and thought towards a seemingly minor presentation element bodes well for you to be able to put together a killer talk.

Not to mention, this type of thinking is wholly reflective of a success-driven mindset. Careful consideration of what approach works best for the audience and your message will amount to presentation victories more times than not. 

The Passion Fashioned Presenter take on “Presentation Movement”

I’d like to share my take on this matter so as to allow you to pair up your drive for greatness with some expertise driven knowledge.

The answer, unfortunately, is not so straightforward and truthfully incorporates a bit of both stances. The reason is that a lot of this comes down to contextual factors related to your presentation.

Let me break this all down for you by drawing attention to a few key areas you ought to consider:

Type of Speaking Engagement

Presentation Movement Gesture

Generally, I am of the mindset that there are no set rules when it comes to public speaking. However, there are certain speaking engagements which have layers of social etiquette that are deeply woven into the notions of what is considered acceptable or unacceptable.

Sometimes these rules are socially and culturally driven, while at other times they may be set by presentation organizers in terms of what they determine “best practices” to be.  

A Social Contract

Without going too deep into what determines what is expected in any given situation, the basic premise held by many classical sociologists is that each culture and its people have something called a social contract. Consider that an unwritten rulebook full of norms and accepted behavior.

From birth to death we continually learn through observation and experience what is the “right thing” vs “wrong thing” to do most given situations.

This expectation lubricates the whole experience to make it as comfortable and smooth as possible. We as people will often lean on such unwritten rules during especially tough situations.

Knowing these expectations and why they exist is critical to know how to break them and still allow you and your message to resonate.

A Highly Charged Speaking Engagement Example

For the sake of clarity on this point, consider a eulogy. This form of communication in most cases is unquestionably driven by sticking to both cultural and social norms.

With that being acknowledged, however, stylistic and conscious presentation choices (including movement) should be judged based on what will best serve the needs of the audience.

Let me give you an example of this logic.

If your great-grandfather was a lively chap who broke down barriers and lived his life according to his own rules, then perhaps breaking social etiquette for the purpose of honoring his spirit would be totally acceptable and well received. That type of talk may lend itself well to movement or other forms of behavior that would otherwise be severely frowned upon in most other cases.

A Word to the Wise:  

When considering presentation movement (or any other stylistic presentation decision) and THE TYPE OF SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT, be respectful. However, do not overlook what will be best for your audience and message.

Audience Expectations

This next point of consideration relating to presentation movement is closely related to the previous. Townhall presentations lead by politicians or officials are by nature, more relaxed than formal press conferences.

The choice of giving this type of presentation to most, of course, is the goal of establishing a deeper level of audience engagement and intimacy that a more formal style does not always allow to develop.

Audiences come to these types of presentations often times hoping to get a better sense of not only the person’s views but also their personality and character. Seeing the presenter in a more relaxed manner is often the best choice for this stated initiative.

Presentation Movement Gesture

Movement with a purpose in mind

In most cases, physically moving to better interact and engage with others will best be accomplished through a natural style of movement towards audience members. Leaning in to better hear audience questions or even coming to greet people during the talk are ways to show caring and endearment. 

The expectation of what to expect at a townhall presentation is set and established. So again, your conscious movement choices ought to align with what will serve your audience’s needs best. For this style of talk, a natural movement style is probably the best approach to acquire a deeper level of intimacy and engagement.  

A Word to the Wise:  

When considering presentation movement (or any other stylistic presentation decision) and AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS, be solely focussed on what will meet or exceed what your listeners’ will expect.

Technical / Physical Space Limitations

Sometimes you may have a great idea for a presentation that is tied into a specific movement. You just know that by doing XYZ, you’ll be able to blow away your audience in some impactful way.

Perhaps that means launching yourself into the audience and crowd surfing. Maybe it’s doing cartwheels in front of your listeners. (I have yet to witness either in a business setting. Can anyone say opportunity? 😉  

In any case, sometimes there may be certain limitations that supersede what the audience expects or would appreciate.

Conference stages, speaking platforms or otherwise may have set physical specs that just won’t let you do that running backflip.

Or maybe the recording of the event (if that is to occur) dictates a certain area a speaker must stay within to be picked up by the cameras. Ditto for lighting and wireless mics having predefined ranges.     

Considering your plan of movement in relation to the location or room it will take place within is highly advised. Overlooking notions of technical or physical space limitations until the day of your talk could quickly blow up an otherwise well-prepared presentation.  


A Word to the Wise:  

When considering presentation movement (or any other stylistic presentation decision) and TECHNICAL/SPACE LIMITATIONS, be sure to get in touch with organizers or tech staff that are charged with handling your talk. This certainly applies when presenting somewhere new or unfamiliar. Also be sure to check with organizers about venues that are unique or may not be used to handling the needs of speakers.

Digital vs In-Person Presentations

This next consideration is also very important. With the flat-out explosion of digital presentation in the form of video being produced for Youtube, webinars and social media, the opportunity to deliver impact has never been greater for professionals or entrepreneurs looking to make their mark.

However, that being said, there is also a massive risk to those who rely on their personal brand as an extension of their career or business. Coming across as unprofessional, unwatchable, unsure of oneself or unsteady can leave most any reputations in tatters.

From my experiences, one of the easiest ways for people to blow things up–in a not so good way–is being out of control on camera.

Cameras can be unforgiving

While pacing and exaggerated movements during in-person presentations may be less than desirable, such types of movement can be overlooked at times, if the message is spot on. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for digital presentations.

To understand this, think of most digital presentations you have taken part in or viewed. Where is the camera centered?

In almost all cases, the area which takes up over 75% of the screen is usually the person’s upper torso to head. The camera is trained on that part of the person.

The leeway granted by in-person talks

Let’s contrast that to an in-person presentation whereby, pending an audience member’s seat location, the presenter may only represent 25% or less of everything the viewer can see. Aside from the actual speaker, the stage background, other presenters, video monitors may be visible.

Due to this truth, it’s naturally easier for people to ignore movements or gestures that are less than pleasing or natural.

Less is More

Up Close Pic Facial Movement

However, in a digital presentation, the old adage of “less is more” reigns supreme. Tiny movements such as twitches, nodding, blinking or facial/bodily gestures are amplified and almost impossible to ignore. If these actions are over-the-top, they will create a major distraction and decrease the likelihood of your message being able to connect and resonate with listeners.

On the other hand, if a presenter conducting a digital talk knows what he/she is doing, the up-closeness of this presentation style can work wonderfully. In fact, that is why digital presentations are often highly efficient and conducive to building quick audience rapport with a lot of people all at once. 

A Word to the Wise:  

When considering presentation movement (or any other stylistic presentation decision) and DIGITAL vs IN-PERSON PRESENTATIONS, be sure to practice your talk and record yourself in advance to get a better idea of what you can and cannot get away with.

Your Presentation Style

Finally, the last consideration you should think about relating to whether presentation movement is advisable or not for you is your own style of delivery.

To be more succinct, what style comes naturally to you? Do you thrive by sprinkling in dashes of movement from time to time? Or do you get rigid when simply considering the thought of movement?

If it’s the latter, then perhaps in the interests of what best serves your audience, movement would not be advisable for you at this time.

Am I suggesting that you resign yourself to sticking with things that you are good at and avoiding the notion of challenging yourself?

No, not all!

However, I do believe that if your skill is not fully developed, whether that be movement-related, design related or anything else you’d consider yourself a little weak within at the moment. Jumping into the deep-end of the pool without the adequate skills/training will probably not serve your audience or your personal/professional goals.

A Word to the Wise:  

When considering presentation movement (or any other stylistic presentation decision) and YOUR OWN STYLE, be sure to know what works best for you. Ultimately, you performing a version of your best self is the most beneficial to audiences and your message.

The BIG TAKEAWAY for presentation movement:

You probably picked up on the repetition contained within the “Word to the Wise” sections. If not, let me reiterate this advice for you.

Whatever presentation choices you make, they ought to be done with two things in mind.

1. Will the inclusion of movement serve audience needs in some pre-defined manner?

2. Does my message stand to benefit from the incorporation of movement? 

If you can say yes to both, then you probably have your answer as per what degree of movement –if any at all– would be permissible.

As always, I would love to hear how you make out! You can reach out by finding and following us on these platforms:

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