How to perfect your stagecraft

Posted on 10/04/2014 by Ant Williams
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How to perfect your stagecraft

I recently facilitated a strategy session for an Executive Team in their boardroom. For the next two days there would be pointed debate, significant issues to address and plans to be crafted. Yet the key thought occupying my mind, was “where should I sit?” The spot at the head of the table might suggest I’m trying to run the show. Somewhere at the far end by the coffee machine could suggest I’m trying to take a passive role in the discussions.

Fortunately I had spent time training my leadership presence with NIDA, the National Institute for Dramatic Arts in Sydney and this had been a part of the training. Go for the middle of the table, the second most powerful seat at a boardroom table, and ideally take a seat opposite the MD. This would allow me to invite conversation from all areas of the table, and pose questions directly across the table to the MD.

By far one of the most valuable courses I have taken over the past two years was with NIDA, experts in stagecraft, communication and personal presence. I took a group of senior leaders from one of Australia’s largest Telco’s and watched on as their exceptionally talented facilitators had the group doing the strangest of exercises with some phenomenal outcomes. Even the shy types amongst the group were delivering compelling presentations with energy and passion like well-healed speakers. 

If you get the chance – go. It will change the way you communicate with others. The three most valuable lessons for our group:

  1. Energy: Deliver 2 minutes of your presentation to a friend. Stop and then dial up your energy and enthusiasm by 20% - 30% and deliver it again. I can virtually guarantee they will prefer your second attempt, even though it feels odd to you.
  2. Structure: The authority on structured thinking is Barbara Minto. Read chapter 1 of her book The Pyramid Principal and it will change how you communicate forever.
  3. Positioning: Knowing where to stand on stage is a vitally important, just like knowing how to move. There is nothing worse than watching a speaker wander around the stage without a purpose! The science to positioning and moving on a stage is simple, yet powerful when it becomes an automatic part of your delivery.

Final tip, which happens to be a personal favourite, always enter the stage from your audience’s left. And always exit the stage from your audience’s right. In Western cultures we are hardwired to read books and process information this way. It provides a nice, clean framing to the start and the end of your delivery.

Photo courtesy O'Neill Photographics