For some folks, speaking fears are not about the people or the electronics (microphones, video cameras), it’s the stage – any raised platform – that effects them. I’d like to share some points to help you use the stage effectively and alleviate some of those fears. I’ll talk about:
- Entrance and Exit;
- Feel it;
- See your audience; and
- Use it!
Entrance and Exit
Don’t let your first experience of the stage be when you are invited to come up onto it. Arrive early and ask if you can have a few minutes up on stage. First, notice the stairs. Is there only one set or can you enter from either side? Are they expecting you to enter or exit from a particular side? Notice the steps: are they solid or shaky; is there a handrail; are they a short step or tall? If you are a woman, especially be aware of being secure if you are wearing heels or a fitted skirt. Pay attention both when you walk up and when you walk down. It’s OK to look at your feet as you use the stairs, but once you are on level (the stage or the floor) rise your head and move forward with confidence.
Walk all around the stage. Know if there is a loose or uneven section. Are there other things on the stage, (lectern, microphone & stand, flip chart or white board, display screen, curtains, electronics, signs or other hanging or dangling objects, etc.) either for your use or for other speakers? Be aware of all of it, whether you intend to use it or not. Own them as items under your control in your space when you are on stage. If there are pieces you will use, be sure to practice with them: markers are full of ink and a good color to be seen at the back of the room; projection clicker has fully charged batteries; you have a safe and accessible place for your water bottle.
See Your Audience
Picture people sitting in the seats in front of you. Are they lined-up, one behind the other, or is every other row off-set for people to see between the folks in front of them? You’ve seen the sign on the back of trucks: “If you can’t see me I can’t see you!” This is true also for your audience. They came to see you not just listen to you, and they will only sit tilted so they can see you for a short time. Use the space of the stage that you’ve been given and move so everyone can comfortably see you some of the time. Even if you are confined to a lectern or immobile microphone, shift to the side some of the time. Let your audience see that you are trying to connect with all of them even when it is difficult for you to do it.
Assuming everything is set up so you have full and complete use of the stage, take time to consider your speech and how your practiced movements will fit here. Should you make your gestures bigger? Can you show elapsed time of a journey by moving across the stage? Move back – forward – use the sides – peer over the edge. This isn’t just where you are standing, this is an enormous prop ready and willing to support you in getting your message across to your audience. Use it!
These tactics will help you more effectively incorporate the stage into your presentation. Taking the time to prepare, allowing yourself to become comfortable, and deciding how best to use it for YOU will make a significant difference in your nervousness about being on stage.
(c) 2012, Peggy Kimmey. Peggy Kimmey is a public speaking coach for business people. She shows clients how to take the “eek” out of public speaking and become more effective communicators.
Contact Peggy at www.kimmeyconsulting.com