Should I move on stage when speaking?

by Pierre Morsa

Should we move on stage when speaking, to avoid looking static? Or should we stay put on our feet, avoiding any unnecessary movements? Strangely, if we ask different coaches, we’re likely to get different answers. I remember meeting several coaches who followed classical theatre training at “La Comédie Française”, and they would recommend that you don’t move on stage when you’re speaking. I also remember other coaches telling startup pitchers that they looked like dead trees devoid of any energy because they didn’t move enough. So who is right?

As often, the correct answer is: it depends. It always pains me to see some coaches give “one size fits all” advice without taking into account the subtleties of public speaking. A few examples of factors that may influence how much you move:

  • The formality of the setting
  • Your natural style as a speaker
  • The fact that you’re going to be filmed

If we are in a very formal setting, typically a political meeting, it’s best no to move too much. If the setting is more informal, like a pitch contest, looking dynamic and energetic is essential, we can move on stage. We could even jump and everybody would be fine with it (although we recommend not to do it Ballmer style).

We saw some speakers deliver killer speeches sitting down or from behind a lectern, not moving at all. At the opposite end, we saw speakers pace energetically on stage and make a great impression. The key is that their posture was coherent with their style, and that when they moved, it was on purpose, not because they could not control their nerves. A good coach will help you understand and build a style that fits your personality, not force you into a predefined stereotypical imaginary “ideal presenter” (a notion I will develop further in another article).

Finally, if you’re being filmed, avoid moving around too much. It will make good camera work harder. Often the lighting is set to be optimal in a specific location of the stage. Try to stay there.

Man walking on stage