Stand still at the start of your presentation. Your audience members need a moment to become accustomed to the sound of your voice, your style of speaking, and sometimes your accent. After this, incorporate movement into your presentation, only if your movements are purposeful and support your message.
Learn how to make your movements match your words. Unconscious expressions of nervous energy will detract from your message.
My friend and fellow speech coach, Darren LaCroix shares these excellent techniques to help you make the most of the stage during your presentation:
Stage Time: It’s Your Stage: Do You Use It or Confuse It?
by Darren LaCroix
After a decade of coaching speakers at all levels, one of the most common mistakes I see is a presenter moving without purpose. More specifically, I see speakers move because of their own anxiety rather than to clarify their message.
Most presenters think that if they use stage left and stage right equally, they are fine. Wrong! In fact, this could not be more incorrect. Some traditional advice in the speaking world is to use the stage equally, so no one feels left out. That is crazy! There is so much more to it than that. If you are using the stage to clarify your point, each person in your audience should feel connected from wherever they are sitting.
Though “use of stage” comes from classic theater, we want to understand it and at the same time remember we are presenting a speech, not a stage play. Let’s start with the stage itself by defining some theater terms:
Upstage is the depth of the stage, the part farthest from the audience and closest to the curtain.
Downstage is the part of the stage closest to the audience.
Stage left is also referred to as House right. Stage left is the left of the stage from the presenter’s point of view, which implies house right is to the right from the audience’s viewpoint.
Stage right is also referred to as House left. Stage right is the right of the stage from the presenter’s point of view, which implies house left is to the left from the audience’s viewpoint.
See the Your Stage, Your Story diagram above.
There are many different uses of the stage and many exceptions. Be certain, though, we should never just “wing it” or move without purpose if we are true professionals and care about clarity of our message.
One way to use the stage is to divide it into sections for each of your major points. If you are familiar with my Create Your Keynote by Next Week program, in a 45-minute keynote speech, you can really make only three main points memorable. You can make 10 points if you want, but chances are we will not remember them all, even the next day.
In this case, you could divide your stage into three sections. You would then deliver all of your sub-points, illustrations, and examples from that section of the stage. When you transition to your next point, you would then move to the second section of the stage, and so on. This is logical, and that is the point. Clarity. It would also beautifully set up your review at the end of your speech, just before your closing. If you review your major points, you can literally point to the section of the stage that you anchored. It is simple and powerful.
Another option to clarify your message through stage use, is to divide your stage into two sections. Many times our goal as a presenter is to “change perspective” in the audience’s mind. It may help to clarify your message if you show this to your audience. For example, the “stage right/ house left” side of the stage could represent negative, lack of, or bad thinking. The “stage left/house right” could represent positive, abundance of, or new thinking. The way you would use this is to tell stories of how you “used to think” before you learned the better way of thinking that you came to share.
Those stories and examples would be delivered when standing on “stage right/house left,” thus anchoring that part of the stage in the audience’s mind. Stories and examples for the positive/happy/abundance thinking would be delivered from stage left/house right. You can also easily refer to either side of the stage with a simple motion of your hand, pointing to the side of the stage you are referring to at that moment.
We can often learn from other industries that are related to ours. What is an exception? We might see masters doing something that appears to run counter to prevailing wisdom, and assume that this makes it okay for us to do so too. This is not always the case. Robert Fripp, legendary guitarist (and Patricia Fripp’s brother) says, “You have to master technique in order to abandon it.” Comedian Chris Rock tends to walk back and forth on stage and his movement can seem without purpose. He knows, however, exactly when to stop and when to continue. Though it may seem haphazard, it is in fact, artful. Once you have mastered world-class stage technique, you can eventually abandon, or creatively depart from, it. As you grow your skills, dive in and try it; then, ask your audience for feedback.
Be subtle. Your average audience member should not notice what you are doing. They should be noticing how clear your message is. The stage is your invisible storyteller. You are using the stage even if you do not move. The question is, are you using it to clarify your message or confuse it? If you are unaware and moving without purpose, you are probably unconsciously diluting your message. It’s your stage; what will you do with it?
Thank you Darren!
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“I wanted a super bowl-quality coach, and I was lucky to be introduced to Patricia Fripp. Her help in coaching and scripting was world class. With Patricia Fripp on your team, you can go places.”
– Don Yaeger, Long-Time Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated magazine, Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, New York Times Best-Selling Author
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More to Make Your Movements Support Your Words
Just a few of the many complimentary resources on Fripp.com to help you deliver a powerful presentation:
- Stand Still – The Interesting Truth about Movement
- Public Speaking – Make Sure Your Movement Supports Your Message
- Public Speaking – Delivery Strategy
Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.