That Time I Fell Through the Church Floor
(This article requires some suspension of disbelief.)
I don’t know what you were doing in the 80s but I was responsible to leading the singing at my church youth group.
I’ll give you a moment to digest that piece of information.
We didn’t sing the sort of hymns you probably remember from school, funerals and weddings.
No, we were a progressive church and we sang from the pages of Mission Praise.
Mission Praise is a collection of upbeat ‘worship’ songs. The waving about of hands is not compulsory but I can’t say for sure that it never happened on my watch.
I have a distinct – and rather shameful – memory of becoming a little too carried away one Sunday morning.
I was wearing black stiletto boots (again, suspension of disbelief) and, presumably lost in the moment, I span around on one heel.
There was a noise, and it didn’t come from anyone in the choir.
It was a cracking, splitting sound.
I knew what it was right away, but pretended I hadn’t heard anything (in church as well, the shame of it).
Unfortunately, the pianist had seen it all. Yes, in my enthusiasm, I’d drilled a hole clean through the church floor with the heel of my boot.
Despite this horrifying experience, I refuse to stay stock still when speaking.
Even though moving about a bit can sometimes lead to embarrassment, movement can bring much needed energy to any presentation. Just move with care. Here are some tips:
1. Your power stance doesn’t have to be static.
Try standing feet hip-width apart. Without moving the soles of your feet from the floor, move your body. See how much movement you can create without taking a step. Which of these movements can you use to enhance your communication?
2. Keep your knees ‘soft’.
Avoid locking your knees. When you keep your knees ‘soft’ it’s a lot easier to give the impression of dynamic movement, even when your feet remain firmly planted on the floor.
3. Find your rhythm.
I know it sounds a little crazy, but try it: practise your talk to music or the beat of a metronome or other audible timer. Great speeches have their own rhythm. Listen to any speech that you love and you’ll find you can pick out a rhythm. Find a rhythm of your own and keep it in your head when you make a presentation. You will find that your gestures and other movements keep step with your rhythm and the results can be mesmerizing.
4. Bounce on your balls.
Bounce a little on the balls of your feet. Doing so projects energy to your audience and they’ll repay you with engagement.
5. Walk, don’t run.
If you feel like walking, don’t overdo it. Take a few small steps at a time. I’ve seen speakers who pace up and down the stage and it makes me uncomfortable – why? Pacing is a sign of stress.
6. Keep it symmetrical.
Resist the urge to put all your weight on one leg when you speak because doing so makes your body look asymmetrical. Asymmetry is bad because it communicates uncertainty and self-doubt. Stick to your power stance and you’ll stay in command.
7. Don’t get lost in the moment.
Learn from me. I got lost in the moment, span on my heel and went through the church floor. Keep your movements the right side of sensible. It’s embarrassing to watch someone flailing about on stage. By all means move, but the aim of your movements is to engage, not entertain.