Speaking involves a series of scenes that you create and then invite your audience into. What does this require? Solid staging. I suggest that you watch this 4-minute video first and then take a look at the strategies below:
Staging Strategy Number 1: Let the action prompt your movements
The action in your story prompts your movement on stage. Let the action drive. If you’re telling a story about standing in line, guess what? You shouldn’t move much. In the video, I let the action drive. When I said, “You should have been with my wife and me 7 years ago as we took our 6 month old daughter Tori to her doctor’s appointment,” you saw me physically walking into the doctor’s office. When I talked about me walking over the scale to step on it, you saw me physically walk over the where the scale was represented on stage and you saw me stand on it. It’s not enough to say it, I also had to show it.
Staging Strategy #2: Remember where you placed everybody and everything on stage
In the video, it’s clear where my wife is represented on stage and where the scale is represented on stage. You should plan this all out ahead of time. Otherwise, you might have a situation I witnessed years ago.
Darren LaCroix (2001 World Champion of Public Speaking) and I were giving a speaking bootcamp in Vegas and we had one of our attendees rise up to make a speech. His story was very emotional and, in it, his uncle passed away. They held the funeral and had the casket on a particular spot on the stage. Later on in the story, this speaker went to that same exact spot on the stage to have lunch! Darren and I looked at him and said, “Do you realize you’re having lunch on your uncle?!” Please know ahead of time where everything will be represented on your stage.
Staging Strategy #3: Step up to your point
After I gave my story about the scale, you saw me step forward slightly and look directly at my audience as I started asking questions and driving home my point. This subtle step forward (and the direct eye-contact with my audience) lets my audience know I’m now out of my story and into a conversation with them. Occassionally step forward to make your point. Sometimes it even helps to step out into the audience.
Final thoughts on Staging
Does staging really make that much of a difference in your speech? Yes. Here are three reasons why:
- Good staging provides clarity to your story and your message. For example, when I have 3 points in my keynote speech, many times I’ll have each point be represented by a section on the stage. Then I can do visual/verbal call backs.
- If you use staging correctly (i.e. visually and verbally calling back to spots and situations on the stage) it can bring forth emotions from your audience because they’ll still be able to remember what happened earlier in those spaces and scenes
- Patricia Fripp told me (I’m paraphrasing here) that people won’t remember what you say as much as they’ll remember what they see when you say it. In other words, you have to make your speech very visual. Staging helps with this in a tremendously impactful way.
Oh, one last thought. Everything you do staging-wise should be subtle. It should look natural and not forced. But keep this in mind, looking natural is on the far side of preparation…not the near side. When you prepare effectively, you won’t have to think about what you’re doing. It will become second-nature. In other words, it will be natural.
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