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. If they aren’t comedians or speakers themselves, the same people who are involved in the traditional performing arts: actors, dancers, and singers are often their coaches and critics. 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.
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. Not done well, it comes off 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 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.