Using the stage
Competitors at the International Speech Contest moved about the stage to facilitate their communication. That is, they used the stage as a visual aid. Usually, there’s lots of room available, but you must abandon the lectern.
Three major reasons for a speaker to move about the stage are create a timeline, structure the talk or facilitate a story.
Actors create a more concrete space – “this side of the room is where I talk to mom, that side is where I confront my boss.” Improv students may use the stage to demonstrate their emotions with dancing and vigorous, wide-gestured emoting. Dancing, singing and gymnastics, while examples of performing in public, aren’t usually part of public speaking.
As speakers, we may want to start a chronological argument at the audience’s left and move right – establish a timeline. Or we may use the left to argue our first point, the middle the second, and the right side for the third – structuring the stage to help identify and separate our points.
Or, we may want to use the stage to help the audience “see” our story unfold – “as I walked into my office I was startled to see my boss waiting for me, not a good sign.” We might walk across the stage to illustrate handing out fliers for our new business.
Although the lines between public performance and public speaking are blurring, a good question to ask ourselves before we begin is, “Would Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King or a TED presenter do this?” If the answer is “maybe” it’s worth considering for a Toastmaster speech. If the answer is “of course not” then we should consider other ways to use the stage to present our talk.
Create a timeline, structure the talk or facilitate a story by using the stage as your visual aid.