Ever since the invention of cordless phones, we have been freed from staying in one place while speaking to each other. We can chat to friends and family miles away while we pace around a room, out into the hall, up the stairs, round a bedroom, down again, out into the garden and into the kitchen before ending the conversation in the lounge, flopped on the sofa, flicking through the TV channels to see if there is anything worth watching – all while we talk to someone else, who has no idea of the frantic activity at our end.
The problem is that, today, the acts of talking and moving are becoming inextricably linked. I can think of a popular comedian who spends his entire act walking off a lot of calories. It has become part of his performance and, in the comedy context is, perhaps, acceptable. However, the amateur speaker, giving a talk in a confined space of a small hall or preaching in a church, should try to curb any tendencies to move too much because it can be very distracting. I even heard a woman say that she felt seasick after one such talk.
You need to resist the temptation to pace backwards and forwards, or side to side, even by two or three steps, especially if you have a static microphone. This might seem too obvious but I have attended such occasions. The resulting speech has whole phrases missing: “Carrots grow best in ……… with a liberal helping of ……….. and they do not like very heavy…………. growing best in …………. Now, I hope that will be helpful for those of who you want to grow them in pots.”
At the same time, you should not stand stiff like a statue but try to look relaxed, even if you do not feel it. Cultivate a confident, but not pompous, air decorated with a natural smile – not a grin – and try not to pace. Stand with purpose! Pacing is irritating for the audience and indicative of the speaker’s nerves, something that you will not want to show.
Practice at home, going through your talk in one place, holding a hairbrush (or similar object) for a practice mike, in case you have to hold one on the day or , if you know the mike will be static, place something on a table or desk that you focus your voice on, so that you get used to staying reasonably still.
As I have said before, rehearsal can help a great deal if you are a novice or even when you are reasonably adept at giving talks. It will be worth it, I can assure you.