Speaking Tips: Use your space

Star Trek fans would proudly tell you that Space is the Final Frontier. When it comes to speaking, you probably want to become better at your use of space now rather than finally. There are some important considerations in how you use your speaking space.

1. How much space to you have?
2. How much time to you have to prepare?
3. What type of speaking are you doing?

Assumptions: These are not one-to-one conversations, job interviews, or times when you’re required to stay behind the lectern.

How do you currently use your space? If you find yourself pacing, that is a natural thing. But, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s the right technique to use. In fact, even controlled pacing can be distracting to your audience. This is easy to recognize, but so automatic to fix. How do you fix it? I’m glad you asked.

There are a few techniques to using the stage for your story, and I’m going to focus in on just one of them for this example: the chronologically based story.

Here’s how it works from your point of view: when your ready to tell your story, move to the right side of your speaking area. There, you’re going to tell the first part of your story. When the time frame changes, you’re going to move to your left, and tell the next point.

For instance, if I were to tell a story of my time in the Air Force, I might choose to cover three main points, my experience during the first few years, my time as a junior NCO (first line supervisor), and my time as a senior NCO. I would be in my starting point on the stage with my opening, and move to the right (audience left) of the stage and talk about how I first joined the military, went to Basic Training, and my first assignments. Then, as I transitioned I would move toward the center of the stage and talk about my first experience as a supervisor, and the assignments at that time. Another transition and moving to the left side of the speaking area, I would talk about becoming a senior NCO, training first line supervisors, and maybe what led me to retiring from the Air Force.

Later in my speech, perhaps during another story, I might reference something first-line supervisors should do. I could gesture toward the center of the stage (where I stood when talking about that part of my experience) when I say something like “just as I did my first time in that situation”.

This types of visual can help connect the audience to your point better, because you combine the auditory with the visual. When you practice it, make sure to use the floor space just like you will on stage. You can even put pieces of paper on the floor to mark your spots.

In the next part of the post, I’ll talk about using space for another type of speaking…building a scene. Stay tuned…

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