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The value of freedom. From the first the speaker should attempt to cultivate freedom in the use of the hands and arms. The habit of letting the arms fall freely at the side is very important. It always looks well, it does not attract attention, and it leaves the speaker free to employ gesture in a natural manner when the impulse comes. But often after the speaker is able to let his arms fall at his side, his embarrassment or nervousness continues to manifest itself by twitching movements of the hands, or by the thumbs securely folded within the palms and the hands tightly clenched. This is something of which the speaker is usually unconscious, and is always an unmistakable evidence to the audience of his lack of selfcontrol. Persistent practice in the use of a few exercises for general freedom of the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and hands, together with attention to the matter for a few times, will give the speaker perfect control of arms and hands. It is a matter that needs attention from the first, for the fault easily fixes itself as a habit. Untrained speakers acquire habits of this kind which, though apparently insignificant in themselves, stay with them through life and constantly annoy those who have to listen to them.
The speaker must learn to stand still. Another fault that is quite as common as working or gripping the hands is that of the speaker who never stands still. He may perhaps stand erect enough and have a good position for speaking, but he never stands still. He is constantly moving, turning, swaying, or shifting. The nervous twitching of the hands is bad, but this fault is worse, inasmuch as it involves the entire body. After listening to such a
speaker for ten minutes, the one thought uppermost in the minds of the audience is not what he is talking about but, "If he would only stand still!" This is probably one of the worst things in the way of action that the speaker can do. He may walk about the platform as much as he chooses, but when he is in a speaking position let him stand still.
The most common faults of this kind seem to be shifting, swaying, and turning movements. The speaker whose fault is that of shifting throws his weight on one foot and then on the other with more or less regularity until the body is moving almost constantly. Or this fault sometimes takes the form of a teetering movement, first on one leg, then on the other. The habit of swaying is not a mere shifting of weight in which legs and hips are chiefly involved, but a swaying back and forth of the body in its entire length from head to foot. In the turning movements the body usually appears to be on a pivot just above the hips, and the trunk is constantly twisted one way and the other. Sometimes the turning takes the form of a most awkward pivoting of one foot on the heel, the leg being relaxed; and sometimes it is the heel that moves from side to side with almost mechanical regularity.
Like the action of the hands, these are almost always movements that are entirely unconscious, and for that reason something that the student should be guarding against constantly. They are things, of course, that he cannot learn to avoid apart from actual speaking. It would be impossible to learn them by book rule. It must be done while speaking, with the aid of criticisms from the instructor and suggestions from the student with whom
he practices. He must not be discouraged if he does not free himself from all of these things during the first few recitations. It usually takes many recitations to get rid of even the most noticeable of them. The aim should be to give him an opportunity to go to the platform every recitation if possible. Nothing will bring results so quickly as this. He should welcome every opportunity that gives him a chance to free his action and polish his speaking, even though it be at the expense of those who have to listen to him. He cannot fail if he takes the attitude of Charles James Fox, the great English debater, who said, "During five whole sessions in Parliament I spoke every night but one, and I regret that I did not speak that night too."
The speaker should know how to get about the platform. After the student has had sufficient practice in the actual doing of these things to enable him to hold himself properly without slumping, twitching, swaying, or turning, he should then give his attention to the matter of general movement about the platform. He has gone a long way toward making his appearance good when he can stand up in a manner that is commanding, hold himself properly, and think on his feet. But one position, although strong, requires change of some kind. Rarely does a person hold one position during an entire speech. The speaker has a natural impulse to move about in some fashion. The important thing is that he do this in a manner that is free and pleasing rather than stiff, awkward, or crude. The fact is that these movements are often so bad that they are more noticeable than the things he does while standing still. Many a debater has
been severely censured or even demerited by a board of judges because he walked across the front of the platform, crossing one leg over the other in a manner which showed that he did not understand the first principle of deporting himself properly before an audience.
Important don'ts. The things that the speaker should do while moving about can best be understood by knowing what he should not do; and the don'ts here are too numerous to permit of detail. Obviously he should avoid such movements as those just mentioned, where the wrong leg seems to be always in the way, the one crossing in front of the other. Likewise, he should avoid changing his position by hitching or side-stepping from place to place. He should avoid pacing the platform like a caged animal. In short, he should avoid regular movements of any kind that bring the audience to expect the same thing to recur with a certain degree of regularity throughout the speech. The principle of the economy of attention is the law that should guide. And, as in all other action, any movement that is of a nature to call attention to itself violates this law and must be strictly avoided. This makes freedom of movement and a reasonable degree of grace essential. If the speaker stands in a fairly good-looking position but cannot move about without appearing wooden, he has much to learn in the way of platform deportment.
The essential principle of platform movement. One principle, if properly used, will do more than anything else to give the desired freedom. That is the principle of walking movements. If the speaker stands in one place and has the impulse to move to another place on the platform, the one way in which he can do it without
attracting any attention is by natural walking steps, having the right foot free to lead if he is to advance toward the right, and the left foot free if his movement is toward the left. This enables him to move freely in any direction that he desires. He can advance toward his audience or retire from them with perfect ease, and no one will ever stop to think how it is done.
The only thing that he needs to remember besides walking movements is good poise. In moving about, care should be taken not to lose the balance and tip the body awkwardly one way or the other. Beginners have much trouble with this, especially when stepping backward or toward the side. If good poise is practiced until he has control of his weight, there will be no difficulty in moving backward or in any other direction with ease. Goodlooking action of this kind is highly desirable and can be acquired in a very short time by giving attention to the two principles, (1) walking movements, (2) proper poise.
When to move on the platform. There remains one further point when to move on the platform. This seems to be more or less puzzling to the beginner. He knows how it should be done, but how is he to know when it should be done? The answer is simple. Let him rely upon the same principle as in all other action: Follow the impulse that prompts. Sometimes speakers will deliberately pause and during the silence that follows take several steps, as though saying to the audience, “I am making this movement here." Clearly such action violates the economy of attention. As a matter of fact, the question of when to move, which seems to appear so