How to Enhance Your Stage Presence
It has been several days since Part II of our four-part blog about “Public Speaking” so I decided to get this done and over with for those like you who have been following this series.
In this article, our third that is, we will talk about enhancing your stage presence by knowing the essentials in moving on stage well and some other platform skills that you have to master. Remember, possessing excellent platform skills on stage enhances your overall presentation better.
Make use of your hands to express your thoughts effectively
I have proven time and time again, although it depends on our own individual styles, that I speak more clearly, more meaningfully, more passionately, and more assertively when I use my hands. Thus, if it has been working well for me, why will it not for you? Just one caveat though. Be careful not to overdo it. I see some speakers who utilize hand gestures just for the heck of it; just so people can see they resort to them. Even when their hand movements do not really represent their thoughts or the words that they are putting stress on, they still use them anyways. Therefore, let me clarify the use of hands when speaking. Apart from aiding in expressing yourself more effectively, hand gestures should still represent what you are saying. You cannot just move your hands any way you want. That is not how it is done. Make sure that your hands kind of show them a picture of what you are saying so they are able to visualize your explanation. In other words, you use you hands to draw the word you are saying in the air.
Establish eye contact with your audience
We already talked about this on Part I but just to reiterate, always do this if you want to create a personal bond with your audience no matter how big or small it is. Other than the “Lighthouse technique” that I shared with you, how it is done is very easy. You simply survey (like a moving security/surveillance camera) your audience as you speak. This makes sure that you are making an effort to reach out to or look at every single one in your audience. Just do not move your head from left to right very slowly because you will not look very natural nor move it very fast as you will look very distracting. Instead, move it the normal way and ensure you do not look robotic.
Standing still on either side of your presentation VS moving around or from left to right
Whether you stand still on either side, you move around or you go from left to right and back on stage depends on the following factors:
1. Type of presentation
2. Size of the audience
3. Seat formation
4. Microphone used
Type of presentation:
When you and your audience critically depend on the content of the presentation or everyone must pay attention to the slides in it, you may have to stay on either side of the projection (which side is your choice) and stay there all throughout. You have to stand still instead because if you move around, they may be distracted because instead of looking at what you have on your slides, they would unavoidably look at you and where you move about instead. This means that their attention will veer away from what is more important than everything else, the content. However, if you do not want your audience to depend heavily on what you have on your slides and you only need them to look at them as a visual aid, then there is nothing wrong with going around the audience or moving from one side to the other on stage. This only means that you need their attention and what you say is more important than what they see on the slides.
Size of the audience:
There is really no strict rule about whether you should stay on either side of your presentation, walk around the audience or move from one side to another on stage or not depending on the size of your audience. For me, this is more of a personal preference or a style unique to each and every speaker or trainer. For instance, my personal style is I do not speak behind a podium, a lectern, a rostrum or a table even if I only have a few participants. Unless the microphone does not allow me to go very far because it is not wireless, I will try to move around. For me, my approach becomes less formal and more interactive, personal, and connective if I walk away from the projection or the rostrum and join the audience. With this, it is like I become one of them or it is like I am just having a forum with them.
Then, why am I saying it also depends on the size of the audience?
Well, for the purpose of being seen by everyone in your humongous audience (let us say), especially when there is a lot of people, you may just need to speak from where you are standing. This is because when you walk through your audience or around them, those seated in front would have to follow where you go. Thus, they end up turning their heads or bodies just so they could trace where you are walking to. It is also the same when you walk back to the front. The people at the back that you were just talking to would start following you as you march back to where you came from. It becomes very distracting for them as they would have to make an extra effort to follow you around. Ergo, especially in these scenarios, I believe you are better off just staying up on stage or near your presentation.
There is an exception though: You may join the audience or walk on the isle if your purpose is to involve a few or some of them by asking them questions, having them share, or cracking a joke deliberately directed at them.
Now, so as not to look like a stump on stage (you know what I mean), just rely on moving from one side of your presentation to the other every once in a while. This way, you do not bore your participants because they are staring at a motionless YOU. Just do not go back and forth after every slide because you will look distracting and uncomfortable to look at as well. When I say every once in a while, it could be after every topic or after a certain number of slides; but not after each of them.
How about for a class or audience of just 15-25 people? Well, either way is fine. You may opt to stay beside your presentation or you may move around if that is what you like more. After all, everybody can see you clearly from where they are seated. However, if you start talking to them and not presenting to them (like you would tell a story, ask them to share, or have them answer your question), this is the time that you get near them or you move from one person to another.
Depending on how seats are arranged or where your audience is seated, how you move about also varies.
Typical seat arrangement (with an isle) – When there is no isle in the middle you can walk along/on, then it is hard to join your audience by walking around inside. So, you do not have a choice but to stay in front. However, you may have to maximize that by not looking stiff at all. You are ought to move from one side to the other or if you decide to just stand still on one side, you could at least make up for not moving by making use of your hands and showing pleasant facial expressions that really get your audience’s attention.
U-shaped seat arrangement – This is actually my personal favorite. It is because when tables/chairs are arranged in this manner, I can move around my limited number of participants with ease and wherever I go to, I am still way within their line of sight. Also, it is more comfortable and less taxing to make an effort to talk to each of the participants because all you need to do is walk along the U-shape and back.
It is needless to elaborate on this. Nevertheless, just for the sake of saying some about this (since I included it), let me remind you that if the chord of the microphone you are using is not too long enough to allow you to walk towards your participants or to move about, then just stay near your presentation. Otherwise, especially when there is a wireless microphone or lapel mic available, you may move around.
Physical Movement Can Be Used to Transition
To segue from one idea to another, you can represent the change or the shift using movement of your body from one location or side to another. However, let me just make something clear. I am not referring to a slide. I am referring to an idea. This idea may refer to a topic, a module, or different concepts. Therefore, do not exaggerate it by moving from one side of your presentation to another after every slide. You will not only end up exhausted for walking over and over again all throughout your presentation but your participants might also feel dizzy moving their heads from left to right and vice versa as if they are watching a tennis or a badminton match. Can you follow?
So, there you go. I hope you learned again from the third installment of our four-part series about “Public Speaking 101”. I hope that after reading through what I can share with you guys on this article, you would already have better platform skills ,which would undoubtedly enhance your stage presence the next time you speak or present.