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Speaking Tips - Stage Presence

Updated on June 12, 2012

You watch keenly as the speaker strides up onto the stage

You watch a speaker stride up on stage and straight away you sense whether this man or woman is going to deliver! There is something about them that arouses in you an above-average interest. They have that stage presence which sends you a signal. You find yourself keenly anticipating those opening words. They look the part. “Ah,” we think, “this one’s going to be good."

The 'presence' you convey before you speak is important

On the other hand, another speaker comes up front and you await him or her with a milder interest. Sure, you’ll give them your attention – provided they earn it. In other words, some speakers seem to ‘have it,’ others do not. Most are average: some have that something extra. A current popular television ‘talent quest’ show would refer to this something as The X Factor. At least, that is the way some are perceived at the outset – before they speak. Presence is important.

How can you get that, "This one's going to be good." response even before you speak?

So how can you, as a speaker, take action to ensure that you will be perceived as - “This one’s going to be good, “approval even before you open your mouth to thank the emcee who has just introduced you? What action can you take before hand to see everything that can be done to enhance your entrance in done?

Do the "pre-flight checks!"

Obviously, checking the venue out before hand is a great advantage. Getting there early is another. These things have already been dealt with in other essays and are common knowledge. So let us look at a few things which, when I mention them you’ll probably agree with, but which so often are left undone.

No venue is perfect. All fall short of ideal

Having spoken at hundreds of venues, I can assure you that almost every one of them falls short of ‘the ideal.’ This is especially so when you first arrive. Many will never come anywhere near that ideal venue where everything for the speaker is perfect. Some will come close. At a prestigious conference you’d expect to have a minimum of problems. This is generally the case. But even here you need to check things out and, if you can, alter them so that your ‘stage presence’ is not undermined by silly oversights which could be so easily be remedied.

A 'quality' background is more important than you might think

Look to where you will be speaking from. Large audience, big room, and there is a stage. Will it be needed? You decide, yes. So what’s on the stage? What is the backdrop? The background? Is it piled up with unused chairs? Get rid of ‘em! If it has a plain uniform-coloured curtain or board backdrop of some sort without paintings, drawings, flags, icons – anything at all which will draw attention away from you - good! You don’t want any clutter up there. You don’t want a table with other people sitting at it, fiddling and shuffling papers – or doing anything, actually. The emcee introduces you and should disappear. You’ve already teed up with him when to make a re-appearance. If you need a lectern, have it stationed where you want it before you go up. Moving things around when you arrive on stage detracts. Do not have anything behind you or near to you which will draw the audience’s eyes and away from your presence.

Nothing about your person should detract from you message

You’ve dressed right; nothing there to arouse disapproval or draw a critical eye. You made sure you didn’t wear shoes which will clack loudly as you walk up, or even as you move around. This can be particularly noticeable if you happen to be a woman wearing spiked high heels. There is nothing that will jingle in your pockets. You don’t have bangles on your wrists which will jangle as you gesture. Oh, and you put aside those spectacles. You know they’ll reflect light.

Check with your 'support team' -even if it's just one person

It’s a big, prestigious and important event so you checked with the sound man, the lighting man and whoever is handling any visual effects. They know your speaking area. They know the venue. You checked with them before you went on. You did, didn’t you! The theme music will start up as you’re introduced by the emcee and make your way forward. The spotlight will come on as you move from your dining table to the podium. Already your presence is being observed.

Look "the goods." Appear and be professional

So, because you have already briefed the technical help on what you’ll be doing, there is now far less likelihood those things will go wrong. Oh, some things won’t be one hundred percent spot on. Most will. The microphone will probably work fine. The audience will be at an optimum distance. They will be seated close together. The back drop will be uncluttered. The music will be as you required. The ambience and atmosphere will be created as closely to the ideal you had envisaged weeks, perhaps months before. Most importantly, your entrance, your chance to at least arrive on the podium looking like an accomplished professional, exuding a charisma you might not be feeling yourself at that stage, is being radiated to all those who are there to listen to your presentation. You look ‘the goods.’

And so the big moment has arrived.

Savour the moment

Halt for some seconds. Don’t hurry it. Savour the moment. You love these people! Be very still. Then begin.

Begin and let your very being take your thoughts, your heart, and your soul out to your audience. This is your time, Lose yourself in it...and don’t come back until you’ve uttered your final words and the audience is giving you the rousing applause you know your stage presence thoroughly deserved


Submit a Comment

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Hi Tom,

    "Hi, Will. Yes it is a very common fear. But you're fearless, Will. I've read some of your stories."

    Isn't it odd? I've been in a real gunfight with a criminal who meant to kill me, and for me, it was far less scary than getting up in front of a bunch of old ladies to give a speech!

    (BTW, he missed and I did not!)


  • Tusitala Tom profile image

    Tom Ware 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Hi, Will. Yes it is a very common fear. But you're fearless, Will. I've read some of your stories.

    Thank you MazioCreate and Cyndi10 for your very kind words. And Cyndi10, you're right about a live audience. There is an extra energy in there.

  • Cyndi10 profile image

    Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

    Hello Tom, this was really great information that you have shared. I attended a conference yesterday presented by and for women entrepreneurs. There were some really dynamic speakers, each with a different style. As I review them now, I can go through your checklist and see how they shaped up. I actually like public speaking and it is one of my goals to do start doing it. I started with a teleclass last month. Not bad, but an audience is so good for the energy you get from them. You are obviously very accomplished and I will be reading for more tips to follow. Thanks for a great article.

  • MazioCreate profile image

    MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

    You have provided some fantastic points for people to follow when public speaking. Thanks for your expertise. Voted up!

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    I envy your abilty, Tom. I'm petrified by public speaking.