Public Speaking

I Like the Way You Walk, I Like the Way You Talk…

public speaking, communication skills, presentations

Strange as it may seem, the Louisiana-born rock pioneer Delmar Allen “Dale” Hawkins summed up the essence of stage presence and public speaking in his 1958 hit single “Susie Q.” In this first of two posts, we’re going to take a look at how the way you walk impacts your presentation.

For your audience to have a memorable experience, it all begins with body language. From the moment you walk into the conference room or onto the stage all eyes are watching;

  • the way you stand
  • walk and move
  • use your hands
  • your facial expressions

All of these, plus your clothing make an impression on the audience. How do you use movement to support your words? First you need to be aware of how much physical space you have, this allows you to plan your movements to be in sync with what you are talking about.

If you’re on stage talking to a very large group, you will probably have more space than a conference room. In that type of setting, you have to set the stage for clients when making business marketing presentations. Move unnecessary furniture out of the way to give yourself room to move.

If you have ever watched a TED Talk, then you know that in this setting, there is no podium to hide behind. In an article on the TED blog by Kate Torgovnick May and emludolph about how to prepare for your 15 minutes of fame, Gina Barnett points out two important facts about movement on stage.

The first is about repetitive motion.  Barnett states that “repetitive movements are distracting and set up a lullaby pattern in the audience’s brain.” When people are nervous, they sometimes sway back and forth or shift their weight from one foot to the other. But you don’t want to put your audience to sleep!

The second tip deals with how to use movement wisely.  Barnett goes on to talk about how walking on stage to emphasize a point or to get closer to your audience is a good thing-when it’s done consciously. But pacing  is a no-no, this can have the same effect on your audience as swaying.

When it comes to your physical appearance, posture is one of the things that we notice first about a person. Postures can be very revealing about how a person feels or thinks about themselves. Imagine you are watching a person walk onstage to give a talk about positive thinking. Which of these speakers gives you a sense of what they are going to talk about? How excited would you be to hear what either of them have to say?

Speaker Number One walks onstage slowly with their head and shoulders down, looking at the floor, arms crossed against their chest and dragging their feet.

Speaker Number Two walks quickly onstage with his head up and immediately begins to wave his hand at the audience,  smiling and greeting them with thanks.

Both of these speakers could be experts on the subject, unfortunately, the way Speaker Number One  presents himself doesn’t inspire confidence.

Good posture plays a big role in body language: it  projects energy and awareness. Keep your body language fluid and open, especially your hands.  Talk to your audience with your palms up instead of tucked in your pockets or folded across your chest.  These gestures close you off from your audience.

In many public speaking situations, there is a podium which is great for holding your notes, but obstructs the audience view. To show receptiveness to your audience,  avoid standing behind the podium when you give your talk. When you keep yourself fully visible it makes it easier for your audience to relax and focus on what you have say.

The takeaway from the song “Susie Q” is that the way we walk has an impact on how effectively we communicate. Poise is the ability to use body language in the stage area to accent what you are saying.  Time is our most precious commodity; so respect it and make the most of the time you use with these tips to make business marketing presentations or give talks to a large audience.

In the second part of this post, we’ll get to the nitty-gritty…the way you talk.  If you found this information useful, share it!




I am a native of Chicago, IL. Starting my career as a graphic designer and typographer, I learned marketing and web design working for several NY firms. I started my very first company, Positive Communications Marketing in 1996 and Suneva Webcasting in 2001. I have lived and worked in Europe for 5 years.  I earned my Bachelor degree in Information Technology and I am currently working toward my Masters of Professional Studies in Information Technology at Tulane University.

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