Presentation Skill: The Benefits of Using Physical Space

You may have prepared an interactive PowerPoint presentation or may have crafted a powerful pitch, but there’s one important thing you might’ve overlooked: the importance of maximizing your space while you perform.

Whether you’re giving your business proposal in a boardroom or in a large hall, the goal is always to attract the audience’s attention and retain it until the end.

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Moving and staying closer to your audience makes them feel that you want to personally connect with them.

While some public speakers hide behind a lectern, there are professionals who maximize their stage presence to fully engage their audience.

The Importance of Space

One of the subcategories of nonverbal communication is called “proxemics,” a term developed by American anthropologist Edward T. Hall.

This is the study of the effects of using physical space and distance between individuals. It’s how a certain person perceives intimacy when interacting with somebody else.

When it comes to public speaking, how your audience understands your message depends on how you move around your stage or move closer to your audience.

According to Hall, there are four main zones of physical space: intimate (a foot and a half to zero), personal (four feet to a foot and a half), social (twelve feet to four feet), and public (twelve feet or more).

Just as eye contact, gestures, and body language achieve effective communication, physical space contributes to a more successful pitch.

How It Benefits the Speaker

For presenters, interacting with the audience using these zones of physical space may vary depending on how wide the conference room or stage is.

For speech trainer Olivia Mitchell, you can interact and maximize your space in a number of ways, including planning out your position on the stage, using a stage timeline, or moving along with the flow of your speech.

Understanding the benefits of using stage space helps you build an effective relationship with your audience.

It Adds Impact

Apart from your content’s message, tone of voice, facial expressions and body movements, the significance of physical space influences how your audience perceives you as a presenter.

When you enthusiastically discuss, it shows that you’re passionate about your topic and wish to share this amazing information with your audience.

It Promotes Trust

Can you imagine talking to a close friend or colleague without being physically close? How about being up-close and personal with a stranger?

Distance also affects how you connect to your audience. According to Six Minutes’ Andrew Dlugan, bridging the physical gap between you and your listeners further connects you to them.

If the venue hinders you from moving closer to the crowd, you can still connect with them by maximizing your body movements and maintaining eye contact.

It Makes You Look Confident

While political leaders use lecterns to look more authoritative, some professional presenters prefer moving around the podium.

Presenters who stand still in one spot appear unconfident and unprepared. Nervous presenters hide behind lecterns and rely on their notes.

Knowing that you’ve prepared well for your pitch makes you want to move closer to your audience to communicate naturally and confidently.

Understanding how physical space benefits your presentation helps you build an effective relationship with your audience.

A speaker who knows how to move around the stage appears more confident than one who simply stays put.

Always be aware of the four main zones of physical space. Know when to use the intimate, personal, social, and public distances. For instance, you can’t be intimate at the beginning of your pitch because you are a stranger to your audience.

Meanwhile, maintaining a public distance a good thirty minutes into your speech indicates that you don’t trust your audience.

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References

9 Ways to Use Space in Your Presentation.” Speaking about Presenting. Accessed June 12, 2015.
How to Connect With Your Audience by Moving Closer.” Six Minutes. Accessed June 12, 2015.
Presentation Tips: 5 Quick Steps to Audience Engagement.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 16, 2014. Accessed
How to Maximize Eye Contact for Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. 2015. Accessed June 12, 2015.
Proxemics.” Communication Studies. Accessed July 9, 2018.

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