Should you walk around the stage during your presentation?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Social media can be an amazing force for good. It gives human beings the opportunity to be beautiful to each other. But it also provides a platform for stinging, public mockery. As former British PM Gordon Brown found out this week. His crime? Walking around a bit on stage while speaking. We look at opinions on pacing during your presentation.

My favourite social media good-news story is about Melissa Camus and her son Odin, who has Asperger's syndrome. Worried that Odin's 13th birthday would be a quiet family affair, Melissa took to Facebook to ask local mums to help him feel 'like people care about him.' What happened next is pure belly-warming goodness.

But here's what can also happen. A former Prime Minister gives a speech about his idea of social democracy and the future of the political party he once led. And Twitter turns him into a Proclaimers-soundtracked joke.

To walk or not to walk

In case you missed it, the Twittersphere was reacting to Mr Brown's presentation style – which saw him pace around the stage for 50 minutes, apparently covering some 1.3 miles in the process.

Here’s one journalist's commentary:

What do the pros think about pacing?

I'm wondering what's wrong with pacing around on stage. Sure, Gordon's style was pretty energetic. But I'd much rather watch Tony Robbins wander around the stage than hide behind a lectern.

What do the experts think? There doesn't appear to be a consensus.

Here's Kimberly Weisul writing for Inc.com, inspired by Stanford University's Matt Abrahams:

Walk during transitions. Now, when do you traverse that big stage? During transitions. There is no need to go hiking from stage left to stage right as you’re trying to make an important point. It's distracting for everyone. You can, and should, walk during transitions. Otherwise, stand in one place and make your point.

And, in agreement, this is VMware's Oliver Roll writing for Entrepreneur.com:

Tame your happy feet. Don't wander around on stage. The more you walk around, the more your audience will follow you around rather than listening to what you have to say. For each of your messages, it's best to stand still, slow down and project. Walk around in between key talking points and while describing less important details. Drop an anchor when you come to your next important message.

But here's Jim Nichols of Stern+Associates on Forbes.com:

Own the stage. Every venue is different, but if you have the opportunity to move freely, do so. Instead of hiding behind a podium or leaning against a table, walk around the stage; make eye contact with your audience, and use gestures to your advantage. Be animated and convey your passion for the topic.


Does it distract you when a speaker moves around? What's your own approach? Let's discuss below or on Twitter.

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