Episode 106: How to Have a Powerful Stage Presence
Shawn: Intro: Hi I am Shawn Doyle—and across from me is the lovely and talented Rachael Doyle. I am the CEO of Shawn Doyle Training and Rachael is the COO. Welcome to Winning Edge at work. Glad you could join us. In season one we are going to be talking about Presentation skills. Today: How to have powerful stage presence. A fascinating topic for sure.
Shawn: All of us at some point have seen a powerful presenter. Someone with amazing or powerful stage presence—It’s an amazing thing to watch. The question then is how can someone have this powerful presence—I think it is sometimes steeped in mystery or people have it or don’t.
Rachael: Yes it is fascinating to see. Well I looked up the definition…of stage presence.
Shawn: Of course you did!
Rachael: Well I was curious so here it is—“the ability to command the attention of a theater audience by the impressiveness of one's manner or appearance.” So your thought on that definition?
Shawn: I like the ability to command attention… the other part is a little vague “impressiveness of one’s manner”..I mean what does that really mean?
Rachael: So I think what we need to get from you – as someone who can command an audience of 2-5000 people is HOW to do that?
Shawn: O.K.—some would think it is a natural gift but the reality is in most people it is a developed skill.
Rachael: I guess that is good news that means anyone can develop it!
Shawn: Yes, it is a trainable skill.
Rachael: So what can be worked on or trained?
Shawn: The first one is energy!
Rachael: What do you mean by that?
Shawn: When you see any performance—speaker, presenter, singer , actor, dancer—they have energy—(inside) it makes you want to watch them. I am NOT saying that they are running around and being crazy—I am saying they have an internal excitement, energy, a glow if you will. When we see a performance and it’s flat or boring the person is just going through motions not doing it with energy.
Rachael: Yes I have seen examples of both—I have always admired and love Leo Buscalia who was a great speaker—he always had such energy and passion. Watching him was mesmerizing.
Shawn: I majored in theater performance… and when actors are trained they talk a lot about ENERGY.
Rachael: So how do we get it?
Shawn: Well there are several things we can do. 1) First get excited about what you are presenting! If you are not excited it shows. What is exciting about it? For you? For them? For us? For the organization, for the world?
Rachael: Here is great quote about that: “When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It's very simple.” Paulo Coelho
Shawn: Great quote—when someone has that positive energy it’s contagious. When they don’t have it’s not ..and very boring.
Rachael: What can else we do?
Shawn: The second way to get energy is physical – 1) by moving before you start 2) moving when you are presenting—not parked in one place—it gives you more energy. (tell speaker story)
Rachael: That is fascinating – I guess in a way the body follows the mind and the mind the body!
Shawn: See… that is why you’re the COO—you are able to figure these things out-quickly very good.
Rachael: So now someone has energy—what else can we do to have a powerful stage presence?
Shawn: Own the space.
Shawn: Owning the space has two aspects 1) Mental 2) Physical
Rachael: Do you feel that way when you present?
Shawn: Abso-tutly, definitely without a doubt!
Rachael: Did you just say ABSO—TUTLY?
Rachael: I don’t think that is a word.
Shawn: Yep it is now. It is a combination of absolutely and the truth—abso—tutly.
Rachael: O.K. as a CSP, I guess you can make up words.
Shawn: So I go to a client’s site and they have a meeting room or a convention center and when I get there I am thinking once I get up to speak it’s MY space—I own it because I have to own the audience’s experience.
Rachael: That is really what you think?
Shawn: Every speaker I know has that mindset—it’s yours… take the space. It’s a way of being commanding or powerful.
Rachael: I guess audiences don’t want a presenter who doesn’t own it. I have quote that applies to that: “If you're presenting yourself with confidence, you can pull off pretty much anything.” Who do you think said that?
Shawn: Ronald McDonald?
Rachael: No Katy Perry… the singer.
Shawn: Oh—I thought if you could pull off the yellow jumpsuit and red nose…no but seriously if you decide mentally to own the room you can pull it off.
Rachael: What is the second item? You said physical…
Shawn: Yes.. move around the entire space—like when we go to see a rock band they play all over the stage. They are owning the space physically… they move around the entire space. I recently saw a Ted Talk with Mel Robbins and she jumped off the stage and went out into the audience to talk with them—it was very powerful.
Rachael: I guess it is also something maybe audiences don’t expect.
Shawn: Exactly… and a great way to own the space.
Rachael: So we have talked about energy and owning the space what else can we do to have a powerful stage presence?
Shawn: Vocal tools—there are 3 P’s—1) Pause, 2) Pitch, 3) Pace
Rachael: Pause pitch and pace……(wait with pause)… very interesting.
Shawn: The way you just used that pause was dramatic.
Rachael: Well I learned from the best!
Shawn: Thanks—I think we can use a pause right before a major point—or at the beginning. If someone pauses for a few seconds and just looks out at the audience it is very powerful—and indicates you have confidence. Let’s face it when standing in front of a room and pausing—for the speaker it seems like an eternity! But for the audience it is an attention grabber—like a conductor who walks up to the front and stands there for 5 seconds…or a pianist or sits down at the piano and waits a few beats before starting.
Rachael: Here is something…
Shawn: I am going to guess you have a quote.
Rachael: In fact I do… about pausing: “Your message is not simply conveyed by your words, but also by your pauses. A pause isn’t a moment of “nothing.” Used strategically, it is a tool to help you build an intellectual and emotional connection with your audience. When you pause, you give your audience time to process what you have just said. A pause allows your listeners to stay engaged and enables them to follow what comes next. If you tend to speak rapidly, it is even more important to allow adequate time for pauses.” That was said by Patricia Fripp—professional speaker.
Shawn: Great quote—and I also think that the pause gives the listeners in the audience time to think about what was just said.
Rachael: Hmmmm…that is a good point.
Shawn: Now the next thing is pitch and having variety speaking higher and lower and everything in between. Also louder and softer. If your voice is an instrument then you have to hit all the notes!
Rachael: How do we do that?
Shawn: Practice—so for example if I say “I am so excited.” Or if I say “I am so excited!” (now used vocal variety) it’s very different and much more powerful. Also record yourself and play it back to evaluate where you need more vocal variety. Go online and watch Ted Talks or to the Toastmasters site and watch speakers and how they have vocal variety. As we mentioned in past shows join Toastmasters and that can be your practice field with no risk!
Rachael: Good ideas there. Now the last one you mentioned was pace.
Shawn: Yes that is just speeding up or slowing down with your words. When you slow down you can give meaning more import—slower can be more serious, poignant, emotional ( give example) and faster can indicate passion, excitement, promise, inspiration.(give example) Again it is something you can practice and hone and that can give you the Winning Edge at work.
Rachael: So this really isn’t as mysterious as many people think it is.
Shawn: No—much of this is about tools and techniques.
Rachael: Anything else?
Shawn: A lot of this is about Mindset and that is something we work with people on the most—just getting you to think you can do this!
Rachael: So true. Here is a great quote about mindset: “Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities.” ― Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
Shawn: Well said—on our next show—we will be talking about how to use podiums, lecterns and the entire stage when presenting—don’t miss it!
Rachael: That is it for Winning Edge at work!