Developing The Speaker Within You: Platform Manner
There is no doubt that the manner in which we assume and command the platform has a huge bearing on how well we are perceived as speakers, as communicators. And importantly, how well the audience takes in our message.
Speaking to people is in some ways the same as leading them: it is essential to command attention and respect, not demand it. The manner in which we stand and deliver our presentation, quite apart from the words we use, will always have a significant bearing on the outcome.
In the well-known 7/38/55 rule we learn how most of the impression we make on our audience comes not from our words, but rather how we speak, and how we physically conduct ourselves while presenting.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few things that can make or break a great presentation. Remembering that these same principles pretty much apply whether we are appearing in person before a small group, a 1000 people or for that matter being videoed.
Let’s first take a quick look at some common distractions that beset speakers. Actually, they distract the audience even more.
Some speakers maintain a poise like a statue, whilst maintaining a vice like grip of the lectern like it was a matter of life or death. And keep that up for the duration of their speech. This conveys the impression that the speaker is delivering bad news. Really bad news. Or that they are really terrified.
I suppose I should add that the first few times I appeared before a significant audience I felt like it was life or death!
Now, there is nothing wrong with periodically resting our hands on the lectern, or the like, but just don’t fasten onto it like a drowning man.
Nor is it a great idea to resemble a gymnast or a dancer by continually prancing around the stage. OK, unless you are one.
It is trendy for speakers today to be continually mobile whilst on the platform. Some mobility can be a good thing, depending on the event and the speaking environment. But it is not helpful to resemble a prowling lion in a cage: continually walking back and forth from end to end of the platform.
Like salt in food, a little bit goes a long way and more doesn’t always equal better. This can become little more than a distraction to the audience, and can be real a pain for the AV team if we are being videoed, or the lighting team if they are continually trying to maintain lighting on us.
It’s always good if we have the time and ability to rehearse our stage manner with the event team, no matter how large or small the event is. This will identify audio dead spots, ensure we don’t block out any visual screens and generally allow them to best perform their job.
Remember, we as speakers are there to serve our hosts, not ourselves, and make their event a success.
Some speakers forget this.
It is always best to try to be as natural as possible. Maintain good eye contact with our audience. Use some whole of body gestures, our body language to talk to the audience.
By example, I sometimes say that when speaking to an audience requiring translators, it should almost be possible to speak without the translators and have the different language groups understand us, if our voice tone and body language are working properly and in sync. If we are reading our audience and listening to them, and they are doing the same with us.
This means that physical gestures, our entire body movement should be as natural as if we were simply speaking to two or three friends at a BBQ.
As with most elements of great public speaking, an ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory once we have the right understanding of it.
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