Speaking and Moving and Blocking, Oh My!

TIP:  Walking and Talking: Remember, when you speak, your body is there to help connect you and your message to your audience.

Speaking, Moving and Blocking

You have essential, change-making ideas and information to share.

Perhaps you are in a meeting or giving a presentation.

No matter the setting, you need to bring along your whole body to the task.  Any good idea needs and deserves your full involvement as does your audience in order that the message is more swiftly and easily understood.

As usual, the tricky part is the how. How do we move effectively? What if you feel odd moving? What’s right?

 

What is effective movement?

Effective movement is movement that is directly connected to our message and does not contradict. When we are aligned with voice, non-verbals, and message we send one coherent communication. Then our verbal message is enhanced, clarified and reinforced by our physical movement.  

It is different from choreography.

Choreography is specifically connected with dance  – and literally means “dance writing”.   We don’t need to be scripted. Simple movement in response to our thoughts is perfect.  We may have to reconnect with our natural gestures and movement, or learn to trust that they are appropriate.

In theatre, actors’ movement is called blocking.  This term comes from the days when directors used small blocks to represent actors as they planned stage movement.  

A director’s  goal in blocking a play is to make the relationships and the story clear to the audience – for it to make sense. As speakers we want to use the same process and think about how our physical movement will clarify our message for our audience.  How we move in space, interact with it and impact it all send strong non-verbal messages and we want it aligned with our verbal message.

If a director’s blocking is good, it seems natural and spontaneous.  It appears to spring from the needs and desires of the character in that moment.  All the movement seems honest and supports the story at hand. Speakers who bring that same organic, natural feeling to their movement on stage connect more strongly with their audience and are more easily understood.

Often if a speaker’s movements become too practiced and tied to each nuanced phrase – it becomes too much – too cumbersome, too mannered – too fake.

 

Be wary of cheerleading movements.

Sometimes blocking can seem off rhythm  The words and movements are almost syncopated. And the movements are often quite literal in reference to the words being spoken.  We often identify this as cheerleading movement.  

READY (clap!)  OK! (fist in the air!)  

 

Our blocking as speakers is best if in response to our audience.

Actors on stage are in dialogue with the audience.  A character in a play is in dialogue with the other characters on stage – and the choice of movements is directly related to getting what they need from the other actors.  The same must be true of the speaker.

If a speaker is focused on themselves, they will appear to be nervous and simply pacing, or on the other end of the spectrum, they can appear to be parading themselves. To speak effectively, we want to move in response to the audience and how they are reacting to what we are saying.  We move to or away, provide gesture or stillness, depending upon the audience’s needs.

 

To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question:

  • Should I plant my feet?

Well, yes, if that is the best connection to your audience. Don’t plant your feet if it makes you feel cut off from the audience. Also, yes, because grounding oneself at the outset provides a beginning point for the audience. They know the presentation is beginning.

  • Should I move?

Yes, if it connects you to your audience. No, if it is about you and your needs. Physical movement needs to have engaged, purposeful meaning and should flow like it does when in conversation with a friend.

  • Should I go out into the audience? Is that better?

It’s better if the audience needs that – but if they need more to see you, then stay where you can see them.  Walking in the audience does not mean better connection with the audience.  

  • In a meeting, versus a large speaking venue, is standing better than sitting?

If it is about the audience – yes. If it is about you, no, – And oddly enough, standing is not in and of itself about the person standing. In actuality, standing is deferential. Do you respect your audience enough to stand? Or is it about you and your embarrassment about taking the focus that keeps you seated? The latter is not as helpful to your audience.

 

Movement Mastery Tips:

  1. Be a Border Collie: Move on stage in direct response to the audience to keep them engaged and connected to you.
    Avoid wandering or pacing. That’s about you and your nervous energy and not the audience.
  2. Let your hand and arm gestures flow. Let them move to help you form your thoughts and share them with your audience. If they are enhancing your message they will not be too much.  

Warnings:  

  1. ”The Flight Attendant” – Parallel movement of your hands and/or arms up and down is not effective for you audience.  
  2. Hands should not be more enthusiastic than your voice because they can become distracting.  
  3. Unilateral hand and arm movement is generally more organic than hands in unison – unless you are showing how big the fish that you caught was.

Know and Own the space.  Fill the space with you, your energy, and your ideas!

Written By Hilary Blair

The Rehearsal Guide: A “No Excuses” List of Best Practices

Most of us understand that practice matters in sports, arts, and business. What prevents us from doing the practice we know will up the level of our performance?

“Winging it” is not an option.

Actors, musicians, dancers, singers – even improv actors rehearse. The USA Women’s Soccer team certainly practiced before winning the World Cup. Successful business professionals hold preparation as a top priority. They understand that if we want to kick a Carli Lloyd 54 yard goal, we have to be prepped and ready. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the moment of the actual show or meeting, yet practice has us ready, honed, and tuned-in to the situation and our fellow players.

Do It!

If we know this, then why do we avoid it? Time constraints? Increase in performance expectations?  Do we make it too intense or the expectations too high?

Promise #1: You will end up saving time.  

Promise #2: You will have an increase in output and get more done.

Even a few moments of prep will pay off.

Here’s How

Mind:

  1. Get your mind in the success mode – (negativity or “realistic” mind-sets eat away at our success.)
  2. Know your success, see it, and live into it.
  3. Weed your mind garden of little phrases of defeat and doubt – perhaps disguised as humility.
  4. Walk through your scenario and info in your head.

Time:

  1. DO NOT give away that rehearsal time – don’t let it get eaten up by other priorities
  2. Build rehearsal time into your overall planning.
  3. Snag little bits of time during your commute, while walking the dog, while showering. Bits and pieces are useful.

Accountability Partner:

  1. Ask a trusted friend to let you practice and give you feedback

Body:

  1. Have a pre-presentation and/or pre-meeting ritual.  Michael Phelps ran through the same routine before every race. Getting in a routine can help signal your mind and body that “yes, now we go.”
  2. Physically repeat, repeat, repeat. Then mentally and physically connect the dots between sections. For example, when I enter the room, I do this. When I start the meeting, I do this. When I approach the stage or lectern, I do this.
  3. Rehearse in the shoes and/or clothes that you will wear during your “performance”. Your shoes inform your balance and grounding, and your clothes represent who you are.

The Rehearsal Guide by ARTiculate: Real&ClearThe Content:

  1. Beginning and endings are very important. Know how you are starting and finishing – know the in and out.
  2. Record your content. Play and listen to it, then play and repeat it out loud. It doesn’t have to be repeated back word for word (unless you are an actor with a formal script). Focus on thought-to-thought, idea-to-idea.
  3. Learn your content in segments. Connect the segments.
  4. Work the sections — not just the whole piece over and over.
  5. Cover the segment with a piece of paper, and then scoot the paper down when you get it right. Repeat.
  6. If you have a lot of content to deliver, write each segment – by hand – on index cards. The physical process of writing the words helps the memorization process.
  7. If you are a visual person, color-coding helps – i.e. each section or segment of content is a different color. You can use highlighters or different color index cards or paper.
  8. If you are musical or auditory, think of each section as a different instrument or song theme.
  9. Work the hardest sections until they flow with your authentic voice and breath.
  10. Work through using only vowels and then add the consonants. This exercise helps you keep the breath connected and recognize the emotional content vs the intellectual content.
  11. Run through your content out loud with anyone who is willing to listen. Run it again. And again. Speaking out loud is key.
  12. Practice it out loud even if you are alone. Again, out loud is key. Things are different in your head than out loud.
  13. Run through your content while taking a walk, folding laundry, doing something physical. The physical activity helps the content get in your body. The more it is in your body, the more it becomes second nature.

Step it up: the rehearsal of champions.

Do you have the stomach for it?

  1. Audio Record yourself — sound only. This can be quite different from video recording.  Listen back for clarity of message and for the musicality of your voice. Do you have vocal variety that is connected to the message? Does it enhance the meaning for the listener?  (Vocal variety for vocal variety’s sake is more hypnotic than helpful.)
  2. Video record yourself and
    • Watch with the audio off (and your harsh self-judgment off as well!) Notice your body, feet, arms, hands, head, and facial movements. Are they varied or are they repetitive? Is your pacing or other movement more about your own comfort than the audience’s understanding?
    • Watch the video with audio on and see how you connected your message to your verbal and non-verbal communication.

It is said that the game is won before the players hit the field – presentations are the same way.  As with performing, your preparation determines your outcome. Make the time.

Your success is in your hands.

Written By Hilary Blair and the ARTiculate: Real&Clear Team.

Rehearse, Practice, Run It, Oh My!

So, it helps to practice. Got it. But what’s most helpful? (more…)

CAUTION: Mind the Practice Gap!

“Winging it” can lead us to feel better than when we take the time to practice – and yet, we almost always do better when we practice.

Why? (more…)

The Benefits of ARTiculate: Real&Clear

Articulate-Logo-WebsiteActors study and work to be in the moment and present. It is a common misunderstanding that actors are being fake while acting, when in fact, they are practicing to be really present in each moment. The energy we often feel as fake is equally non-desirable in acting as it is in public presentation. As an audience we want the wall to come down so that we can connect to the presenter. As the presenter that can be the scariest step – to be open, vulnerable – and – connected.

At ARTiculate: Real&Clear, we work to align speaking voice with emotional voice for effective connection and communication.