The next time you have to give a charismatic speech to an audience you’ll be glad you found this episode in The Vault!
You’re not alone if the thought of speaking in public scares you. However, provided you have an interesting topic to talk about, most of the hard work is done! An ‘interesting topic’ qualifies as any information that you believe the audience wants to hear. Once you’ve got that covered, what really matters is your stage presence, which influences how effectively you can deliver this interesting information.
I’ve seen bad speakers attempt to hammer over hundreds of points an hour, and witnessed great speakers sharing one point to an enthusiastic audience for twice as long. The difference between the mediocre and great speakers is their stage presence. Stage presence is your ability to communicate your ideas with panache that keeps the audience engaged.
To give you a great shot at this, we’re going to focus on how you begin and finish your talk because these are the crucial moments that determine how your audience will receive you and how happy they’ll be at the end of your presentation.
That wobbly moment where it’s your turn to talk has suddenly appeared from nowhere! As your tummy fills with butterflies or excitement, follow this 3 point game plan that will ensure you make a great first impression with your audience and set them up to hang off your every word.
Step 1: Walk On Stage then PAUSE
When you walk on stage, smile and shake the emcee’s hand if he’s still in the spotlight. Doing so helps transition the flow of the proceedings without interrupting your audience’s precious attention. If there is no emcee, smile at the audience as you take your place in front of everyone.
Rather than jump immediately into your speech, take a moment to survey the room in silence and make eye contact with the audience. A few seconds is ideal. This simple gesture simultaneously conveys that you have unstoppable confidence in your message, builds the audience’s trust in you, and adds a little dramatic tension in the room that will vanish with a sparkle as soon as you hit the opening lines of your talk.
However, while this pause is powerful, keep your mind occupied on something. Having a gaunt look on your face won’t cut it. My magician pal Woody (more about him shortly) uses the silent pause to imagine that he is sending out an energy beam to hit all areas of the room. Crazy, but it must work for him because his show-stopping performances repeatedly bring the house down!
Once, you’ve paused for a moment, it’s time to talk!
Step 2: Say WHAT You’re Going to Talk About
Quietly engaging your crowd as you walk on stage is great but it’s also crucial that you use this short window of time to then clearly state what your talk is going to be about.
This is simple enough: “Ladies and gentlemen, today, I’m going to be sharing assume awesome stage presence tips with you!” would be quite adequate.
Introducing the title of your speech builds curiosity in your audience and sends a cue to the crowd that you are about to launch into the content of your talk.
It also ensures that all the audience members fully understand what your topic is going to be about (there’s usually one person who turned up late or got dragged into the festivities by a friend!)
From my experience, the more specific the title of your talk the more curiosity it’ll build in your audience. For instance, calling your lecture: “How to Be Charismatic When Giving Presentations on Stage” works far better than calling it: “Stage Charisma“.
If you get stuck for a good title, try using ‘How to-‘ in the heading, it’s a good way to sell the specific benefit of your talk immediately!
Step 3: Say WHY You’re Going to Talk About It
Outline the reason why you’re actually giving a talk and requesting your audience’s time. Most people forget this step (myself included). You can see me do this in the first example in the video!).
If an audience is watching you, it does not mean they want to be listening to you. There are always distractions competing for their attention, including the temperature of the room, their ever-present cell phones and their unspoken desire to use the bathroom as soon as they sit down!
No matter how familiar you think your audience will be to the topic you want to discuss, do not assume that the audience will automatically know the purpose of your speech.
For example, lecturing about your specialist subject of car engines to an audience of car mechanics may seem like a cake walk. However, some of those mechanics in the audience may switch their attention off because they assume you have nothing new to teach them when that really isn’t the case.
Outlining the significance of your talk by taking a moment to explain ‘why’ you’re excited about how the topic will benefit your audience will motivate them to actively listen.
Now start your speech!
An applause cue is a gesture that suggests to the audience that they should clap. Magicians use them after they’ve successfully performed a notable trick, and at the end of their shows to announce their time on stage has some to an end.
The applause cue is very simple: feet together, big smile and open your hands with your palms out… as if you were going to catch a huge beach ball thrown to you by the Brazilian volleyball team.
This action will trigger the audience to automatically show their appreciation. There might be a delay in your gesture and their response, so pause until you hear the applause. Next, take a few moments to drink it in. Not only does it feel great, it also gives the audience a chance to thank you for your talk.
(Side note: If your audience doesn’t immediately clap, add a bow to make the gesture more significant. You can see me do this in the video!)
Incidentally, it was Woody the Magician who taught me this brilliant technique. Woody is a master of controlling the room and delighting his audience and you can read more about his adventures on his blog. Part of his success relies on him being able to gently direct his audience in a way that makes them happy.
An audience doesn’t necessarily know when your talk is over; they need to be told. As the boss of the room, it is your job to guide them to this happy conclusion. The applause cue is a surefire way to walk off stage to a round of applause.
There are several variations of the applause cue (for example, the inverted applause cue) but the one demonstrated in this video works consistently well. That’s all for now… ta ta!
PS: If public speaking scares you then don’t miss the next episode of The Vault where I’ll demonstrate first hand how to tackle that fear head on!