Have you ever been on that big stage? If your answer is "YES," then you know it can be both intimidating and confusing. Where should I stand? Can I walk over here? What should I do with my hands? If your answer is "NO," then get ready... because your day is coming!
After working in public speaking for almost three decades now, I've seen many stage movements that work well and many that fail. Here are 5 tips you can use to engage your audience like a pro!
When you're on a stage in front of 2,000 people, you look small from the back row seats. Every gesture you make with your hands and arms is barely noticeable. Therefore, your gestures need to "get big." A simple hand gesture to your left needs to "get big" and become a much larger stretch to your left.
While I don't want you to look awkward and uncomfortable, please know that stretching your gestures out makes you look more confident in this large space.
Align your Stop-and-Go
Plan your speaking spots on the floor. These hula-hoop-size spots, or "marks," are where you stop to deliver part of your message. These marks work great when you have a money line to deliver. Money lines are pithy or memorable statements like "Talk is cheap but actions pay the bills." Most pros use pieces of tape on the floor to mark the location for delivering their money lines.
Then, plan when you will step away from your mark and move across the stage to another mark. If there is constant pacing from the speaker, the audience tends to interpret it negatively. They may think, "Her mind must be wandering." or "His constant walking has nothing to do with his message... I think he must be nervous."
I recently had the privilege of working with a Senior VP who was addressing an audience of 2,500. He did an outstanding job reliving a story in which he had received a question that made him pause and think. He delivered the pondering question to the audience on his mark. Then, as he began to contemplate his answer, he began to walk on the stage. It was perfect alignment between the movement in his mind and movement on the stage. It was stellar!
Watch your Step!
The blinding lights of the stage can also blind you to the edges of the stage. Professional stage crews often mark the edge of the stage with white reflective tape (assuming the stage is a dark color) so it's easier to see. Always walk your stage during rehearsal. Take mental note of the edges. Then, plan your marks so you don't step too close.
Take it from a speaker who stepped off the back of a stage while speaking... knowing your edges and your marks pays dividends for both you and your audience. I'll save that story for a future blog post.
Use Your Stance
Once you're grounded on your mark, how exactly should you stand? This depends on the message you want to send to the audience. There are many options. For today, I'll focus on three tips for choosing which stance to adopt:
Formal stance has equal weight on both legs. This appears confident and somewhat formal.
Casual stance has unequal weight on each leg. This causes the hips to be at an angle, which looks more approachable and less formal.
Avoid the crossover stance. You've seen this before. When a person crosses their legs while standing. Every parent in the room thinks, "He needs to go to the restroom." Others may just think, "He looks nervous." Please avoid using this stance ever!
Beware the Infinity Hole
If your event has a professional production team, they may be using imag (stands for "Image Magnification") technology to project a close-up, live-stream image of you speaking on the jumbo screens behind you. If so, please walk the stage during rehearsal to avoid stepping in front of your own video image.
If you do, the imag may turn into the mirror-in-mirror infinite copy of yourself. That is an audience distraction!
I'm sure you've heard the expression from theater, "break a leg." The origins align with the superstition that wishing a performer "good luck" would actually jinx the performance. So instead, people did the opposite hoping it would result in a great performance.
I'm not a fan of superstitions so I'll give you the encouragement I offer all my speakers before they take the stage... "Have fun!"
Until next time... go have some fun!
Russ Peterson Jr.
Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and President of iSpeak, Inc. – An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published author on Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. iSpeak helps people build stronger relationships and achieve more through better communication. You can connect with Russ directly through LinkedIn.
Picture credit: Alari Tammsalu, pexels.com