Sunday, December 12, 2010

Move Purposefully

A professor friend of mine recently introduced me to the blog FemaleScienceProfessor, in which the blogger writes:

"From a teaching evaluation (not mine, but it could have been):

'The professor paced without purpose while teaching.'

I confess: I pace while teaching. To the extent that my pacing has a purpose, it is so I can be a physical presence in various parts of the room at different times during the class, make eye contact with more students, listen to their questions better, try to see what they are seeing when I project something/write something at the front of a large classroom, or just because I get kind of hyped up when I teach and I feel like moving. I don't know if those are good purposes or bad purposes, but I think they add up to purposes, even if students don't know what they are.

Movement in a presentation is very powerful. When you move purposefully, you drive home your content. When you move randomly, you likely lose your audience.

It seems the professor here does some of both.

There is a big difference between walking towards a student in order to listen to her question and pacing back and forth "because I get hyped up when I teach and feel like moving."

The former is purposeful - and helpful. The latter may be a way to get out energy - but is most likely distracting to the audience.

From the Green Room: A speaker can ramble in words and in movement - both are problematic. Just as you speak with intention, you should also move with intention.


Anonymous said...

So interesting! Thanks, Sarah!!

Evgenya Shkolnik said...

Thanks Sarah for addressing this. I find that I walk around during a talk to point things out on a large screen or to make eye contact with another side of the room. Neither is completely "purposeful" but does make me feel part of the room and audience rather than standing behind a podium with my laptop. I personally hate feeling trapped behind a podium, probably because I'm relatively short. I also pace a bit when asked a question I need to think through on the spot. Again, not purposeful but at least it looks like I'm thinking. Or not. ??

Sarah Gershman said...

Evgenya - It sounds like your movement is definitely purposeful. There's no set rules on this - but in general, it is a terrific idea to move around in order to connect with the audience.