Suzanne Waldron is a Behavioural Change Specialist and Keynote Speaker . In this article she shares her most important tip for creating a commanding stage presence: move purposefully! Enjoy!
As you’re reading this, I encourage you to imagine yourself as a person in the audience at a conference or other type of event. Just for a moment sit in the chair they sit in. It’s generally a calm place to be isn’t it? It’s a comfortable, passive position in which you get to observe from afar. You and your colleagues can interact at a relaxed pace and sit back to be entertained, to learn and be given new information.
Now, the conference is beginning – the MC reads the speaker’s profile and then stage right, enter the speaker. Lights, music and action!
You’re ready to listen, or perhaps a little excited or even uncertain. Whatever the expectation, you’re ready. The speaker with their beaming smile gets on the stage bursting with energy. They start to share their magic wisdom and low and behold the talk is underway.
Ah, there’s a problem. You can’t concentrate, as the speaker just won’t stand still! You really appreciate their content and their energy, though it’s like watching a tennis match! Backwards and forwards, fast or slow. Left and right. Never ending movement. Stand still already!
Right, let’s put your speakers hat back on.
You’re on stage looking at the audience and you have so much energy to give, so many great messages that it’s actually really hard to stand still. Perhaps you are nervous – so you walk and pace, to use that energy in a different way. Whatever the reason, if you’re a speaker that paces, it’s coming from your head.
The point is that speakers who move constantly are giving off subconscious signals – subconscious being a momentarily unaware state. I am not suggesting no movement – as I personally and whole-heartedly move and flex on stage. I’m talking here about unnecessary pacing and constant movement instead of purposeful movement.
Why should a speaker stand still?
Planting your feet in the ground and standing still for the first minute of your talk literally grounds you. The audience can focus on you more deeply by setting a place on the stage (an anchor point) which enables the audience to subconsciously know ‘this is the place this speaker commands my attention’.
It is less distracting for the audience. They can focus on what you are saying. By all means, move your body, your hands, move a few inches. This is not about being a statue! Just allow them to see you and hear you in a way that promotes confidence and there’s that word again ‘grounded-ness’. Your mental and physical energy will dictate their attention span and connection to you.
Building trust immediately is essential. If the speaker is pacing (letting their body tell the audience what is in their mind i.e. nervousness, excitement) it can detract from the real message the audience is there for. They may not even know it, though they can feel it.
When you enter onto stage. Find your central anchor point. The point where you will stand comfortably for a minute to engage, be the focal point and build trust with your unspoken energy.
After that initial stillness, your purposeful movement to parts of the stage can begin and that’s for another post.
For now, focus on your mind before you get on stage. Be a central and grounded point of reference for the audience and settle into your talk. It’ll build subconscious trust, rapport and get those learning doors open in the brains of the audience!
Facilitating Behavioural Change