Stage presence — that elusive X factor that makes some speakers irresistible, and the speakers who don’t have it, irritating. Surprisingly, stage presence isn’t something you have to be born with to rock an audience.
Stage presence is like a muscle, it’s something you can develop and grow intentionally. Here are five stage presence hacks to get you started so your next speaking gig is one for the ages.
1. Turn up the music
Everyone’s attention will be on you while you’re speaking, but what you can do to pump up the energy or set the tone as you walk on and off stage?
I’m sure you’ve been to some amazing seminars over the years where a few speakers stood out because they entered the stage with high energy. Sometimes they walk on to an upbeat song or instrumental clip that fades out before they get started. Some take a moment to get the audience clapping or even to dance around a bit—kind of like how Ellen begins her talk show.
The goal is to create, and transfer energy, to get everyone on the same page. As a bonus, it will transfer your nervous energy into connected energy. Whether or not you utilize music may vary from one speaking engagement to the next, but it is something to consider.
2. Engage your audience beforehand
Another tip that can boost your confidence before taking the stage is to mingle with your audience beforehand. For example, if you are one of many presenters at a weekend workshop—attend the workshops before yours. Or arrive early so that you can network and interact with the attendees. You can even utilize your social media to chat with fans and followers who are looking forward to hearing you speak.
If your speaking engagement is a solo situation for an intimate audience, have dinner the night before (or coffee the morning of) with the team who invited you. This will boost your confidence and help make the audience feel less intimidating to speak to because they are people that you already know.
3. Dress the part
What you wear matters. When you step on stage, your senses will be on overdrive. You instantly feel the collective energy in the room. Perception is a reality, so you must balance looking the part with feeling like yourself.
This is demonstrated beautifully, in a TED Talk by supermodel Cameron Russel, in her speech “Looks Aren’t Everything: Believe me, I’m a Model.” She walks on stage as the model-stereotype in stilettos with a short, tight dress. Gradually, she layers her outfit with a wrap skirt, cardigan, and flats. The inspirational point of her speech is that you must look beyond what you see. But let’s face it—not everyone is quite there yet.
Your appearance will instantly determine your authority, credibility, and even your trustworthiness. This means you must adjust what you wear to the audience. The goal is to visually connect to your audience while still looking like someone they can trust and believe in. This is developed by what you wear and how you carry yourself—a balance of professionalism and personal style.
4. Facilitate crowd participation
Getting the crowd involved will lift the energy in the room. A Q&A section can be part of this, but what you’re looking for are participatory opportunities during your talk. Here are a few ideas for inspiration:
- If you utilize music when you walk on stage, you could also get the crowd fired up by clapping their hands or dancing.
- You could have a call and response section of your speech. (A great example of this is when speakers say, “And a hush fell over the crowd!” and the audience responds with, “Shhh!”)
- Ask audience members to raise their hand if they have ever experienced what you are talking about.
- Use a strategy embraced by comedians, by looking for audience members who physically respond to what you are saying—and engage directly with that person.
- Inviting an audience member on stage is powerful, especially when you’re having them demonstrate a key point for the crowd.
- One of my favorites is to split the room into teams, having them participate in an exercise in that gets them completely invested in the experience. For example, each team is given a task to complete and they share with one another about the process and what they learned.
5. Speak to your audience
Who is in your audience? What are they going through? What has them distracted from reaching their goals (or keeping them from fully listening to you as you speak)? When you know your audience, and what they’re going through, you can command their attention because you know what words to say to make their heads turn.
This is why you mustn’t simply rinse and repeat talks. Yes, you can go over the same content with each new audience, but your delivery should shift.
For example, if you speak to corporate executives about high-performance, you need entirely different examples and scenarios than if you were talking to business owners. The content is the same, but how you speak about that content needs to shift. The audiences are so different that identical examples won’t impact both groups in the same way.
6. Pump yourself up
Lastly, identify ways you can inspire yourself and get your energy flowing before you hit the stage.
- Read an inspirational quote.
- Repeat a mantra or an affirmation.
- Jump up and down.
- Listen to an upbeat song.
- Strike a power pose.
There is no right or wrong way to get motivated. The key is to make sure you feel your best when you hit the stage. Otherwise, the audience will feel your lack of confidence, and your message won’t connect.
Tara Hooper is a communication consultant and stylist, working with business owners, companies, and corporations to create dynamic teams with the power to communicate beyond boundaries or barriers for enhanced productivity, profitability, and presence, using the G2 Communication Method™. Tara’s consulting and genius is trusted by global brands such as Toyota Financial Services and Liberty Mutual. She uses her over 20 years of experience in leadership, communication, and presence, to enhance team dynamics, increase effective leadership, and build strong interpersonal skills so they can close more deals and create more bottom-line profit. Her genius has also been featured in publications and media outlets such as Good Morning Texas and more. Connect with @TaraDHooper on Twitter.
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