You’re brilliant. You should be on the stage. And there’s another one leaving in fifteen minutes.
This is an old joke from the days of the Wild West, as told by members of the National Speakers Association of Dodge City.
Of course, stage coaches are long since gone. They would have been gone a lot quicker if their wheels hadn’t gone backwards in the old films. Something to do with motion capture and frames per second.
But the point remains. If you are good, you should be on the stage. If you speak for a living, get on that stage. If you have to speak at events because of your expertise, get on that stage. If you are invited to a venue, to speak to an audience and there is a stage at the front of that audience…..stand on it. Do not get off it. No matter how much the room starts spinning, plant your feet firmly and command that stage.
If you get off that stage and start walking about in the audience, you have stopped being a speaker and you have become a trainer. Not that there’s anything wrong with trainers. I own several pairs. They are very comfortable and supportive and make me feel like running.
Of course when times are hard, like most speakers, I do my fair share of training. But I keep it quiet. The training page of my website has a WordPress widget which is an animated librarian who makes a Shush noise.
No of course it doesn’t, but here comes the point of this article. (It’s a bit like the L’Oreal advert where you have to sit through a lot of hair flicking, before you come to the science bit.)
I compere events, where there are many speakers across the day. I watch in horror as speaker after speaker, leaves the stage to wander among the audience. They’ve probably been to some session on presentation skills, where they are told it makes them appear more human, if they connect with the audience. Let me tell you, this is nonsense. If you are on the stage people can see you better because you are in the light and you are raised up. They can hear you better because that’s where the microphone works best, without feeding back on the speakers. Besides who wants to be human? No-one pays to hear a mere human speak, they want a guru.
The other week I was at an event, where six out of eight speakers left the stage during their talk. It meant the people in the front were having to crane their necks round to see them. The camera operators were struggling to find them in the dark. The shorter speakers might as well have been in a hole, for all we could see of them. (Yes I admit it, I’m only5’8″, that’s why I like the stage.)
You don’t have to stay on the podium or behind the lectern. It’s OK to move about, whatever Toastmasters tell you. But it’s not OK to get off the stage. It just isn’t. Not unless you are luminous, tall and have a very loud voice.
God invented stages so we could stand on them. OK maybe it wasn’t actually God, but Jesus was a carpenter and he probably built a few stages for the Nazareth Speakers Association in his time. When he was talking to his followers he probably couldn’t afford a stage, so he would stand on a hill. We’ve all heard of the Sermon on the Mount. Well we wouldn’t have heard of it, if it had been the Sermon in the Hollow, because no-one would have been able to see or hear Jesus.
So the next time you are onstage talking to an audience and you are tempted to go amongst the people, please don’t. It’s not big and it’s not clever.
I would have given individual feedback to all the so called speakers, who wandered off the stage in search of the common touch, but they wouldn’t have thanked me for it. I’m not Simon Cowell. Besides, they all had more than enough feedback on the day, because they wandered too close to the loudspeakers!
Jeremy Nicholas – 19th May 2010 – David Lloyd, Hampton, Middlesex, UK
(If all the world’s a stage, where are the audience going to sit?)