Your presentations and public speaking can be greatly enhanced by one simple trick... the art of knowing where to stand on the stage, writes Simon Hall.
Breaking down the barriers
Time and again, surveys tell us that public speaking and presentations are among the most scary experiences of life.
That fear tends to lead speakers into a common mistake, which mars their performance.
But happily it's easily remedied, as I'll explain here.
A lectern, or table at least, is standard kit for a presentation.
But beware of these ordinary, everyday and average features, however innocent they may seem!
For they hide a subtle trap for the unwary.
Pretty much everyone gets nervous when they're giving a talk.
I certainly do, and I haven't met anyone, no matter how experienced, who says otherwise.
The photo shows my friend, the screenwriter Julian Unthank, letting the audience into some of the secrets of the trade at the Swanwick Writers' Summer School last month.
Julian's given plenty of presentations in his time, but still suffers with nerves.
Although, as this picture shows, he's aware of one of the dangers of how they can hold back his performance.
And he isn't falling into the trap...
Can you see what I'm talking about?
And also how it makes his performance far more engaging, even just from the picture?
If you haven't got it, think about this question:
- What do nerves tend to make you do?
The answer, for the purposes of this blog anyway, is they make you want to hide away and seek safety.
And where on the stage, above, would you do that?
Yep, you got it.
Behind the lectern.
Which provides a sturdy and reassuring barrier between you and the audience.
But if you position yourself behind the lectern, it sends a signal.
About an obstacle between you and them.
Not that you're together in this discussion, as you should be, exploring a subject of mutual interest...
But instead that you're apart, distinct and divided.
That way you're not part of the show (even if you're in change of it), but somehow separate.
Not ideal when you want to be in harmony with the people you're speaking to.
With no obstacles to good communication between you.
See how Julian doesn't fall into that trap?
And how his presentation becomes much more energetic and engaging for it?
It's funny how you can see that just from the picture, but somehow you can.
I know it takes courage to emerge from behind the lectern to prowl the stage.
To become part of the audience, rather than apart.
But it can make a huge difference to your performance, and I'd highly recommend you giving it a try.
By the way, presentation skills is one of the most popular courses I teach, particularly pitching for customers, or to raise investment.
If you'd like assistance with the art, please get in touch.
I love supporting start ups and small businesses on their journeys to success, and I'd be very happy to help.
I'm a tutor, lecturer and coach in Communications and Business Skills at the University of Cambridge. I also run my own media, public relations and design consultancy, Creative Warehouse, work in government, and across the private and public sectors.
I can offer communications support in all areas, including:
Branding, reports, investment pitches, presentations and speech writing ~ Conventional and social media ~ Websites ~ Photography and videography ~ Public speaking ~ Crisis communications ~ Building your personal brand