Why We Move When Speaking

If we ask people why they move or pace when talking, I think it would be safe to say they’re nervous.  I feel another reason is they create a natural, safe zone.  I have noticed this when I hold a baby in my arms. I automatically start bouncing the baby, either mimicking my mother’s bounce as she bounced me or how I rocked my children.  I have seen this with speakers at Toastmaster who have a sway, cross-step, or shift their weight from side to side.  When asked why? It triggers a memory from their past time of safety, and subconsciously they fall back into that rhythm.

I think this is a safeguard or flight response as when we are nervous, our senses become heightened, and we are looking at the audience as something to fear.  When we embrace the audience like family or loved ones, the flight response is lowered or eliminated.  This may be why practicing a speech in front of friends and family is easy and less intimidating.

Defining Moving for a Purpose

I want to start by define moving for a purpose.  We all move when we talk. It can be hands, body, or physically relocating to a spot. All this can be classified for practical purposes as a movement.   The area I will be focusing on is the physical location on stage versus body/nonverbal communication.

I think you’ll agree with watching someone pacing is not exciting. If it were, Hollywood would have actors pacing back and forth on the screen.  Yet if we look at Broadway and the theater productions, actors move with purpose.  During a play, the lead character starts at stage center, walk stage right, and delivers another line, and as the dialog progresses, the performers work the stage area delivering a well-rehearsed speech.  The audience follows as the actor’s calculated movement feeds energy to their words. This may sound dramatic, but I feel moving for a purpose keeps the audience’s attention, whereas pacing tires out of the audience and becomes distracting over time.

Building Movement into a Speech

Why should you have movement in your speech? Movement can help engage an audience, show a timeline, and represent another person in the dialog.