Ownership and familiarity
When entering an arena that is unfamiliar to us we can restrict our movement & assess the environment for signs that will increase our confidence to move around. Presenting is no different. If you are at ease with your environment you will move around it effortlessly and crucially you will be gaining ownership over the space. So a familiarity with the area you'll be speaking from will always give you an edge.
Another way to have control over an area is to leave 'personal markers'. These are things that belong to you - a drink, flipcharts, sample products, props etc. Objects like these will enable you to travel in and around your presenting area when you need them and, as you do, you'll find you are gaining more and more ownership of the area. Steve Jobs was a master at taking well-placed drinks during product launches. Rehearsed or not, the audience perceived someone who was relaxed and confident enough in their space to grab those moments.
Movement and emphasis
Once you have created a space that you are really happy to use, you can then apply your physical proximity to the audience to play with drama and emphasis. Stepping close to your audience as you emphasise a particular point or message will have a much stronger impact on them than staying in the same position. Moving away on hearing a difficult question will unconsciously tell the audience that you are unhappy with the comment and you are retreating. If it is a hard question then step inwards and engage - even if you don't know the answer.
You can also use your space to create the movement of time and location. By placing yourself in or gesturing to a particular position, you can ask your audience to make an association with that position. You might start by standing on the right hand side of the stage and saying – "Our challenges began in New York seven years ago…". You could then move to the centre of the stage and describe the action you took to deal with those challenges. You could then move to the far left of the stage and say – "Here we are today in 2014…". Choreographed moves such as these allow the audience to associate the areas you choose on stage, with the times and places you have described. You could then easily move back to the right side and your audience would know the space represented the past in New York.
You are bigger than your slides
Anything that you use to illustrate your presentation is ONLY support material. The speaker must be the most important person in the room after the audience. All too often a presenter will stand to the side of the screen, directing most of their energy towards it. Why not try spending the majority of the time with your back to the slides instead?
Just as you can take ownership over your space; the same principle can be placed upon your slides. Once you physically touch your slides they become yours and you own them. If you have anything on your slides that your audience needs to see or focus on, then reach out and actually touch it. A Laser pointer will never give you ownership of your visuals.
Hans Rosling, the global health expert and data visionary, is a brilliant example of a speaker who fully owns his slides.
Eye contact is essential to effective communication – but with larger groups it can be hard for people to see your eyes. What’s the answer? > Read more