You could have an amazing presentation, but if the set up of your speech is off, it could derail your impact before you’ve even begun. To achieve speaking success, ensure you have prepared, not just your speech, but also your stage.
Setting the scene
One key thing I’ve learnt since joining an advanced speakers group is the importance of introductions. Having a great introduction gives you the authority and credibility to speak and makes your audience excited to listen. It means that you can limit the time in your presentation having to establish your own credentials. It also eliminates the need for humility – someone else can big you up as much as they want.
Although I have seen how this can be overdone. The person about to speak was a big deal in the personal development world with an enviable reputation. He deserved an impressive introduction. But there is such a thing as going too far. The introductory video reached climax after climax and yet the speaker did not appear. After clapping excitedly for the third time, the audience were fed up. The speaker essentially lost them before they’d even begun. They had to work harder to win the audience over and sadly their performance on stage did not live up to their overhyped introduction.
Pitching your introduction at the right level will give you comfort as you walk out onto the stage. The audience will respect your experience and be intrigued to hear what you have to say. Then you can deliver.
The stage is yours
We often talk about “owning the stage”. When you’re speaking, it is up to you to take control of the environment in which you’re doing this. If you are in control, then you are going to be and look comfortable and come across so much better. One of the simplest but most impactful things I learnt to do when speaking is move the lectern. If there is a lectern on stage and you are not going to use it, move it out of the way (or if possible make sure it isn’t there in the first place). If you can’t move it, move away from it. This speaks volumes about the kind of speaker you are going to be.
One of the worst examples I’ve seen of not owning the stage was at a company conference. The speaker was a highly regarded business person. They were stood behind a lectern which was neither front nor centre of the stage. Worse, far more front and centre was a sofa, with someone else sat on it; not listening to the speaker, but reading their own notes.
This was a traversty on several levels:
- the person speaking not owning the stage
- the person on the stage with them not appreciating (or caring about) their impact on the speaker or audience
- whoever organised and set up the event, not having rehearsed properly.
If you are speaking, when at all possible, make sure you discuss the set up with the event organiser in advance. Getting there in advance pays off. It allows you to take in the stage you have to work with, think about how you are going to use it and ensure you do what you can to control it.
How do we do this now, when we’re not meeting with a stage, but online? We can still prepare. Both in terms of rehearsing what you are going to say, but also the tech set up. Not leaving yourself enough time to do this at your peril is something that I learnt the hard way recently. My video set up did not work. Top tip – do not install new anti-virus software and a new webcam on the same day!
These same rules apply virtually as to in person speaking:
- make sure you are comfortable with the platform on which you are presenting and how you will come across on a virtual stage
- speak to whoever is in charge of the event in advance and get there early to assess the lie of the land
- craft an introduction that sets out your credentials and speaking topic in a way that sets you up for success.
Public speaking does not come easily to many of us. The more things we can do to make ourselves comfortable when speaking, the better. Preparing not just your material but your stage (whether real or virtual), will give you the best chance of speaking success.