Good, better, best.
Bad, worse, worst.
One, two, three.
Past, present, future.
When we speak, we often find ourselves comparing things (e.g., different investment opportunities; different options for a business) or reviewing a timeline (e.g., stages of a project). Thus, we should structure our presentations using the appropriate format.
But the work doesn’t end there. Once you have your structure, you have to present the material in a way that is effective for your audience. You have to change your perspective.
In Western societies, when we show or display information, we start at the left and move to the right. This is because in Western languages (English, French, German, Spanish, etc.) we read from left to right. (You’re doing it now.)
Thus, it is normal for us to think:
1 → 2 → 3
Past → Present → Future
Good → Better → Best
Likewise, it’s natural for us to gesture from left to right when we describe the patterns above. However, if we gesture this way when facing an audience, the audience members will see things in the opposite direction.
3 ← 2 ← 1
Future ← Present ← Past
Best ← Better ← Good
To make things as easy as possible for your audience, you have to change your perspective. You have to gesture and move in a manner that is opposite to what you would normally do.
For example, let’s suppose you were talking about the growth of your company. You want to speak about its creation and past, then talk about where things are now and finish with your projections for the future.
For the benefit of your audience, when you talk about the past, stand stage right (the right side from your perspective but the left side from the perspective of the audience). As you begin talking about what is happening today, move to the centre of the stage. When speaking of the future, move to stage left (the right side of the stage from the audience’s perspective).
You can take the same approach for any of the other speech structures mentioned above. And if the stage does not allow you to move very much, you can get the same effect by gesturing in the appropriate direction.
Just remember that your audience has a mirrored view of you. Your movements should always reflect the point of view of the audience. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have it, you will find that the right movements and gestures come naturally.
Of course, if you are speaking to an audience of people whose mother tongue is a language that is written from right to left (Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Urdu, etc.), then you want to do the opposite of everything I have said above!
I used to work in United Nations and I traveled regularly to several countries in the Middle East. Because I had learned to adapt my movements and gestures for Western audiences, I had to temporarily “unlearn” my stage movements and gestures and revert to my natural way of gesturing, which now felt bizarre and unnatural to me!