This year marks the 25th anniversary of Camden Yards, the baseball park that changed ballparks in the major leagues. I covered the very first game played at Camden Yards. Rick Sutcliffe was the starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles that day and forever holds the honor of throwing the first pitch in a game in that ballpark.
Years later, after he retired, I asked Sutcliffe the key to his success as a big league pitcher. I remember his answer vividly and have often thought about how it parallels the success of a presenter.
Sutcliffe’s keys to success:
1. Change speeds
2. Change locations
To a pitcher, that means change the velocity of your pitches. Throw some fastballs, some curves, some change ups. Be unpredictable. Put some pitches over the plate, some high and inside, some low and away. Keep the batter on his toes. Don’t be predictable.
The power of mixing it up
Sutcliffe lasted 18 years in the majors. His keys work—and not just for pitchers. They work for presenters too.
Here’s how they translate from the mound to the front of the room:
1. Change speeds—vary your delivery.
Don’t deliver everything at the same pace. Mix it up. If you deliver everything at the same pace, it becomes predictable or irritable.
I recently saw Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage present at a major national conference. He’s brilliant. His message is amazing, and he’s really funny. But after an hour long presentation, many of the people in his audience felt exhausted because he never changes his pace. He delivers fast ball after fast ball after fast ball. Click the video below to see for yourself.
2. Change locations.
Too often as speakers, we do one of two things: we stand in the same place (sometimes behind a podium) or we meander constantly.
Those both become very predictable and boring.
It’s far more effective to move with your message. Move when you are transitioning from one key point to another. Move when you are gathering your thoughts. Use the available space in the front of the room. When you are ready to deliver an important segment of your presentation, stop. Stand and deliver. Really connect with the audience.
When you finish that segment, move again.
Don’t confuse moving intentionally with pacing
You don’t want to pace the stage like a caged animal. That gets predictable. You don’t want to look stuck in one place. That gets painful to watch. Use whatever available space you have. Move when it feels natural. Stop when you want to deliver something important. Mix it up.
It works in an old ballpark or a new board room. It works for pitchers and for presenters. It worked for Rick Sutcliffe at Camden Yards and it will work for you in the front of the room.