“This speaker has got to learn how do dance,” I thought as I watched him prance from one side of the stage to the other, pausing briefly several times along the way. It was a definite distraction.

That was too bad. He had a good, strong voice. While he moved around, he had good eye contact with the audience. Most important, he was making some good points and a good, clear message. At least he had moved out from behind the lectern. That helped the audience to begin trust him. However, his wandering on the stage hurt.

What should he have been doing?

The standard advice given to all speakers is, “move with purpose.” Coaches suggest moving only in transtions between points. Those are nice words, but often they are too vague to be helpful.

I recommend he learn to dance, the FORENSIC DANCE.

Forensic does not always mean “scientific” or “legal.” Is also refers to “public discussion and debate.”

In other words, a Forensic Dance is moving around the stage in a way to get your message across more clearly and effectively.

The most basic Forensic Dance: is the “Point to Point.” Like any dance steps, there can be variations. You can “spice it up.” But you need to know the basics first.

MOVE TO THE BEAT

When you get up on the dance floor, before you start, you first listen for the beat.

Just as you move with the beat of a song, you move with a beat for your speech.

What is the beat for your speech? It is the organization. The organization of most speeches is essentially the same. There is an Opening to capture the audience’s attention and introduce the topic. The main body has several main points to support your message. The Conclusion summarizes the message how it applies to the audience. Let’s call this the “point to point” beat.

Before learning the steps, you first need to outline your speech. Identify the parts (opening, main points, conclusion). Once you know these, you can plan your dance movements. Picture it this way.

_____________________#1 (Opening)___________________
_____ #2 (Point 1) ______#3 (Point 2) _____ #4 (Point 3) _____
____________________ #5 (Conclusion) _________________

Those are your dance steps.

#1. The Opening (CENTER STAGE)
Begin your speech in the center of the stage. Take command of the audience here, as you look out to the center, and then casually make eye contact with each section from your right to left.

(Transition) Now that you have grabbed the audience’s attention, you transition to your first point. As you speak, move to your far right. Your pace can illustrate the tone (fast walk with an excited tone; slower walk for a casual or deliberate tone).

#2. Point 1 (STAGE LEFT)
As you discuss Point 1 of your message, STOP. It is important to stay in place as you present Point 1. Do not sway, do not pace. Make eye contact with the audience in front of your, moving from your right to left (their left to right). Try to keep most focus on the audience in front of you, although you do need to look to the center and your left.

(Transition) As you transition to your second point, move back towards the center stage. Find a point close to where you gave your opening. It may be more effective, depending on your topic, to be closer to the audience, or even further away if it fits the point.

#3. Point 2 (CENTER STAGE)
As you discuss Point 2 of your message, STOP again at the Center Stage. Again, it is important to stay in place as you present your Point. This time, your eye contact can start at the center, then move to your right, continuing slowly from far right to far left.

(Transition) As you transition to your third point, move further towards the far left stage. Repeat the same instructions as for the other transitions.

#4. Point 3 (STAGE RIGHT)
As you discuss Point 3 of your message, STOP. Repeat the same steps as for Point 1. Your eye contact begins with the audience in front of your, moving from your left to right (their right to left). Try to keep most focus on the audience in front of you, although you do need to look to the center and your left.

Finally, you transition towards your conclusion and your final message. Move back towards center stage

#5. Summary/Conclusion (CENTER STAGE)
End strong back in the center. Assume full command of your audience and the stage again.

I recommend that you think about your staging as you practice your speech. Plan them out ahead of time, using your speech outline. Recognize your transitions as the cues to move to the next spot.

THE PURPOSE OF YOUR MOVEMENT

Remember your reason for staging your movements. You are not walking across the stage so that the audience can get a better look at you. You are not trying to move so that the audience can pay attention.

The main purpose of your movements is to enhance your message. Your audience should visualize the significance of your words through your staging. This will make a more effective presentation.

You can improve the dance steps. I saw a speaker give a presentation about positive thinking. Her title, “H-A-P-P-Y.” She gave her Opening in Center Stage, then moved to Stage Far Left for “H.” For each subsequent letter, she moved towards the right, with “Y” being Stage Far Right.

I gave a speech recounting the several states in which I lived (from Massachusetts, to California to Florida). I moved around, stopping to talk at each city. After a while, the audience realized I was tracing a map of the United States.

Remember to practice – practice – practice.

May I have the next dance?

Author's Bio: 

Fred Haley, published author and speaker, has been a member of Toastmasters for over 12 years. Fred has earned two Distinguished Toastmasters awards. His web site, www.TOASTMENTOR.net is “Every Toastmaster’s first stop for advice and resources.” Fred publishes a weekly ToastMentor newsletter.