Note: Click here to check out the previous installment of "So What Do You Practice?"
One of the worst things for an audience is to see someone rooted to one spot or frozen in a single pose throughout a presentation. It makes the experience much more formal, stilted, and uncomfortable. I'm not suggesting you need a heavily staged routine, but do free yourself from standing in a single spot.
The flip side of this, of course, is the presenter who paces back and forth throughout the presentation. A little movement is good. A lot of movement? Not so much.
Unfortunately, I can't give you a specific prescription; you need to use what works for you. It could be as simple as three steps and a slight turn. The key is, it's got to be organic—it's got to come from the connection you're making with the audience. That will determine how you move.
Movement on stage should be like songs in musical theatre. In the better musicals, people burst into song because words alone can't fully express how they're feeling. A similar thing should apply in your presentation. If you're really making a connection with your audience (and if your content is compelling enough), then at some point you'll feel like getting closer to them…even if it's just a few feet. Or you'll want to step toward the screen to highlight some key point.
Even the simplest moves help break the invisible plane between you and the audience, which can make the connection much more personal and immediate.
This is a quick aside, since there are all kinds of books to fill your head about what you should or shouldn't do. My feeling is, if you're really engaged with your audience—if they're leaning forward, eyes locked on you, responding to the things you're saying—then whatever mannerisms you might have (or think you should have) become irrelevant. People will ignore any physical details because their brains are so engaged in the interaction they're having with you.
After you've practiced the pieces, it's time to put it all together. Unless you're presenting to only one or two people, you'll likely be standing when you do your presentation. If so, do not rehearse your presentation sitting down. There is a huge difference in how you'll go through it on your feet versus sitting in the comfort of a chair. If you've never practiced standing up, it may seem odd and uncomfortable, but it's the only way to become comfortable with this process.
There are two basic approaches to the full run-through, if it goes less than perfectly. The first method is to stop when you encounter a problem, or something doesn't feel right, and rework it until it is smooth. The second method is to keep going until the end, then come back and fix the parts that aren't as you'd like them. When it comes time to do the presentation, you'll need to keep rolling anyway, but both methods work.
On a more detailed level, as you go through it, practice looking to different spots, as though you're connecting with various audience members. It's really important to look to all sections of your audience—not just those right in front of you.
Two caveats, however:
• Don't get so busy looking around that you never connect with individuals. You need to pause from time to time, as though you're having a personal conversation with someone.
• Don't get so choreographed in your gazes that you always look to specific spots for key moments. You need to be flexible to the audience and environment in front of you.
In all of these things, find what works for you. Make it as much like the final event as you can, and don't worry if it's not 100 percent perfect the first time you rehearse it. That's why you're rehearsing it.
John Windsor is president of target="blank">Creating Thunder, a Boulder, CO-based communications training and consulting company and the author of YouBlog. He has held executive positions in marketing, sales, and business development and has worked with companies including American Express, Reuters, Staples, and Knight-Ridder.