This week I have had the pleasure of staying at a holiday resort where the employees put on a show for guests most evenings. The cast was made up of volunteer members of staff whose day jobs varied from receptionists to sports coaches and activity organisers to business interns. Apart from the choreographer (who performed in every show) very few of the cast were professional performers and in most cases it showed despite their enthusiasm. But a few had incredible stage presence and it got me thinking about what makes someone stand out from the crowd when in front of an audience and how we can use this to engage our audience and enhance our message when public speaking.
One of the first characteristics that strikes an audience is how much passion someone has. The performers in the show that were committed to their performance and passionate about ensuring that the audience enjoyed the experience were the ones that stood out and therefore the audience was drawn to watching them over other less enthusiastic cast members. When giving a presentation, make sure you are passionate about the subject because it will be very clear to your audience if you’re not.
The most important part of connecting with an audience is to acknowledge them. Eye contact is the key to this and not all of the performers in the show were able to demonstrate this. When public speaking, regardless of the size of an audience engage with as many people as you can. In a large room it is important to maintain eye contact with someone for slightly longer than it might feel comfortable (as long as you’re not staring!) This ensures you really connect with that person and the energy generated from that interaction will radiate to the people around them even if you can’t make eye contact with each individual in the room.
The performers who knew what they were doing were far more confident and as a result had far more stage presence. It was obvious who had practiced until they knew each step by heart and didn’t need to look at others on stage for guidance. These were the performers who could really connect and make eye contact with the audience because they weren’t looking around at each other. Rehearsing a presentation allows you to avoid referring to notes so that you can fully engage with your audience and appear confident and credible.
Performing, like public speaking, is a craft that must be learned and honed and it was clear which performers had benefited from professional training as they had a polish and an edge to their routine. Great presenters are not born that way; like any skill, pubic speaking needs to be learned so it is important to invest in training and/or coaching to ensure that you develop techniques to enhance your speaking. This will give you an edge over other presenters and show that you respect your audience enough to offer them your very best.
The performers who were smiling throughout their performance were definitely the ones that held my attention and made the show more enjoyable for all. A smile shows that you are human, you are sincere and that you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Of course, depending on the subject matter, smiling throughout a speech may not be appropriate. However, in most situations a genuine smile is a wonderful way to build rapport. How many presenters have you seen who go through an entire presentation without smiling at all or smiling at the very end with relief that it’s over? Let your personality shine through by connecting with your audience through a heartfelt smile – I guarantee your audience will thank you for it.
I have enjoyed taking a bit of time out over the last week and watching the shows was a fabulous reminder of the importance of stage presence when in front of an audience. Try incorporating these tips before and during your next presentation to develop your own stage presence and notice how much more impact you have whilst delivering your message.
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_