Although we could be seen as going off the training and development reservation on this one, once you read the entire article, you’ll agree we are actually too close to the subject not to bring it up. This blog is probably the most direct way of saying I think training, public speaking, and acting are related–at least in terms of movement on stage and how to interact and communicate with your audience.
Public speaking is certainly coming into vogue as a performing art. Comedians, motivational speakers, and others who inspire their audiences certainly give performances on stage. Some would argue everything that takes place on stage is all theatre. We may disagree with that notion, but that’s for another article. So, who are the critics and coaches if they aren’t other comedians and public speakers? The same people who are involved in the performing arts: actors, dancers, and singers are also coaching non-actors, including public speakers and trainers as I do, in the areas of communicating effectively with an audience.
Acting, singing, and dancing do have at least one thing in common when it comes to performance. They are all performed on a stage to an audience and involve movement. Now, add trainers, speakers, and virtually anyone else who moves on a stage in from of an audience.
Many of the people in the business of motivating or providing inspiring speeches or presentations for corporate and business leadership may think more in terms of planning movements and gestures. If not done well, it comes off as artificial. We know that actors and dancers must move with purpose on stage; singers move to show emotion, too, even if that movement doesn’t include dancing to the music. It is the same for comedians or professional speakers.
Strategies or plans to move around the stage can lack the fluid motion of natural movement. If you are speaking to an audience, and you don’t have to be a traditionally thought of performer, keep in mind the way you interact with your audience is based on your passion, your audience, and your subject matter. Look at general areas of the stage as points to reach your audience (all of your audience) on as many levels as you can; that means you may come down to them to get closer or keep your distance by being upstage to take in the whole room. You may have to move to a side of the stage if you’re on a thrust stage. Imagine doing a speech in the round. It’s possible.
You should be led by those in your audience who seem to beckon for your attention. You’ll see it; you’ll feel it. Be careful not to wander the stage; it is distracting from the audience when your focus should be on them. In fact, if you want to make a strong point three steps forward will alert the audience you are about to say something important. When making an important point, center stage is your strongest area on the stage, but you don’t want to live there.
Just as a theatrical director looks at the stage to see the areas of strongest impact for the room for the audience and sets the stage for the scene, so should you. You may own the stage, but you are there to interact and communicate with an audience. Try not to leave anyone out. Now, Arthur in the musical CAMELOT moves to a specific point on the stage to punctuate a point. That’s a strategy. However, play it for fun or it won’t be effective. Want to make your audiences feel you really know what you’re doing, even without visual aids? Find an appropriate moment to go right to them. You’ll enjoy it and so will they.
For more resources about training, see the Training library.