Do you use the stage on purpose? If you are not using the stage “on purpose,” you are probably not nearly as effective as you could be. In fact, you are probably doing a disservice to your audience by diluting the impact of your message. Great presenters use the stage to help them clarify their message. Do you?
Here are five ways you can use the stage with purpose:
1) Differentiate Yourself
When preparing for my run at the World Championship of Public Speaking, I was a sponge to any World Champion I could talk to. Why? I wanted their perspective. What did they worry about? What did they not worry about? I wanted to think the way they thought. When I met the 1997 World Champion, Willie Jones, he told me how he used the stage. I listened. He mentioned to me that he noticed that all of the other contestants started their speeches directly in the center of the stage where they shook hands with the contest master. Willie said that he wanted to “stand out” from the crowd when he started his speech, A Warm Boot. He decided to come right out to the front of the stage to begin his speech. His idea was simple and brilliant. People in the audience may not have even known why but still thought, “Hmmmm, this guy is different.”
What can you do to differentiate yourself with the use of stage?
2) Think Aerobics Instructor
When we are on stage, we are looking at the audience, and people in the audience are looking back at us. This gives us both the exact opposite perspective. We must keep this in mind when we are referring to left and right, past and future. If we say, “He went to the left,” we must remember that this is the audience’s right. We need to think like an aerobics instructor. We must condition ourselves to do the opposite of what we are saying.
In my speech “Ouch!,” I actually did it wrong when I was explaining how a headline read in the New York Times. I spelled it out left to right from my perspective, not the audience’s perspective. Though many simple mistakes are easily forgiven by our audience, if we want to own the stage we must be aware of these small nuances.
When we tell stories of what happened to us in the past, it makes sense to the audience if we move to our right (their left) to tell that story. Why? Because in English we read from left to right. Therefore, the past is signified by the audience’s left. Does that make sense?
3) Have a Strategy
There are two reasons to have a strategy about your use of stage. First, it will help your audience have clarity on your message. Take the time to lay out the stage in your mind. Know where your crucial points or stories will take place. It does not matter how you dissect your stage; just please have a plan! Make it clear to your listener.
The second reason to have a strategy is for you! I don’t know about you, but I have trouble memorizing my material. That is why I worked hard to internalize my winning speech. I “anchored” my stories in different places on the stage. I placed yellow pieces of card stock with key phrases on the floor to remind me of the story I would tell from that spot.
When I rehearsed the speech at home, I literally walked to different places on the stage and told that story from that spot. The more I did this, the more that story was anchored in my mind. I even practiced the stories out of order to make sure I knew them inside and out and where they would be told on the stage. It also assured me that I was not “memorizing” the order of the stories. Instead I was actually internalizing them. Once your stories are internalized, it brings you confidence. Audiences like confident speakers. Confidence allows you the opportunity to be more “in the moment” as well.
4) The Lean
When you are telling your stories in dialogue, imagine that you are standing in a hula hoop. That is where your characters talk. When you step outside the story hula hoop, you are the speaker. This helps bring clarity to your speech and storytelling. Your audience can now clearly know when you are in your story telling it and when you are addressing them as the speaker. There is a difference.
If you choose to narrate part of your story, lean out of the hula hoop as if you are giving us a few more details to understand the dialogue. For example, when I tell my story of my mentor’s offering me stage time, I tell it in dialogue until the audience needs a few more details. After going back and forth with the dialogue between Vinnie and me, I lean out and say, “You don’t understand how big an opportunity this is.” This gives the audience the relevant information it needs to set up the key line of dialogue in this story. I then lean back in and finish the story by delivering the key line.
5) Transition to Your Next Point
Another way to use the stage is by bringing power to your transitions. When you transition from one major point to another, I suggest that you use the stage to help yourself as well. For example, have a transition line that you literally say as you are moving to your next point such as, “The second strategy for being a powerful presenter is to…” When you say these words, you are also moving on stage. You want to make sure you plant and deliver once you state what the next point is. This will help anchor this location on stage with your next point.
You can also transition in silence. This can be very effective as well. You do not need to say anything. You can just move to your next point without saying a word. Understand, though, that you are now anchoring the new location to that point as well.
There are many reasons to be moving on stage and many reasons to stand still. If you are not aware of this, chances are you are probably not doing it right. My simple “Stage-ology” strategies will help you deliver and help your audience receive your message. If you truly want to own the stage, continue your learning on how to use it properly so that you can be more powerful. If you want your audiences to be plentiful, use the stage purposefully.
Which of these five strategies will you use? Share your answer below!
What are the secrets, stories and strategies behind Unforgettable Presentations? Find out. Listen to Darren’s Brand New Podcast.