Essential Public Speaking Manners ~ Part 1
These are simple, yet important rules to help you speak and perform with great confidence. They apply to all situations.
“To communicate effectively, one needs to be well versed in and thoroughly aware of what physical and emotional components best express the intended message.”
There are certain specific stage manners to practice and stay aware of on a public speaking platform, within professional situations or when taping for media appearances. These stage manners are the backbone of any person’s effectiveness.
They are simple rules to help you perform with confidence, trust and superior credibility. They apply to all public situations where performance and results, are key.
There are always two distinct roles at play!
The audience has a passive role and the speaker has an active one. The opposite of active is dormant or inert, as in lazy. This is an essential dynamic to realize. Audience and speaker communicate very well with each other to the degree that they both understand and respect this primary dynamic. They are not to be confused or interchanged. Only the speaker is active, in charge, on top, dominant, etc. Show an audience that you are okay being in charge, and they automatically begin relaxing in your presence. Do the reverse, and they slowly will become uneasy and afraid. Imagine a singer who doesn’t start singing the song, alone on a stage; it soon becomes unbearable to witness.
Much of stage fright or poor performance is directly related to the violation of this golden rule. Audiences love to be passive, compliant, docile and receptive. They are actively passive, so they can enjoy what is being presented. In turn, a good speaker or performer must feel comfortable being active, lively, dynamic, responsive, etc. Think of yourself at a movie theater in the dark, relishing every single moment of the film you are watching. The watching is a passive role; the film projection is an active one. Audiences absolutely appreciate remaining passive; they become active only by permission, like in a workshop situation or when given an opportunity to participate or ask questions.
Speakers, orators, presenters, musicians, singers, actors all are required to take on an active and dominant role. A good speaker or performer dominates his or her audience: with class, skill, talent, knowledge, poise, flair, humor, good gestures and postures, voice, diction, presence, facial expressions, command of the stage, technical ability, etc. A good metaphor is to imagine a speaker as the host of a dinner party; all that happens is under his or her watch.
A host welcomes, greets, makes comfortable, organizes, orchestrates, takes charge, designs, commands attention, makes sure all goes well, entertains, directs, acknowledges, educates, serves, etc. Being the master of ceremonies or the orchestra conductor is essentially what a good speaker does in the background of his or her presentation or speech. The more you are willing to accept this role or role-playing model, the more comfortable and confident you will become; so much in life is reliant on good casting.
It is the role of the speaker to make an audience feel safe and comfortable, not the reverse! The more you realize the passive role your audience plays, the more you will develop sympathy and compassion for them. All audiences secretly hope that the show, the act, speech or presentation will be a great success. For instance, it never feels good to see a skater fall on the ice during a number. All you have to do is to be willing to lead the way. All genres of public speaking have a forward moment-to-moment direction.
You must possess a strong desire to be seen & heard!
Clear and open communication is the speaker’s first responsibility, and basic skill-set. It represents a speaker’s primary credibility builder. It includes presence, handling of space and stage, body postures, gestures, coordination, voice tone and patterns, eye focus and direction, hints of behavior, and overall intentionality. I call this your basic credibility, and it should always be given a particular emphasis. It very often determines, from the get-go, the outcome of a speech or presentation. Your entrances will always be remembered! They set the tone and atmosphere instantly.
We all carry a “built-in” credibility in public. We make ourselves known as we walk up on a stage or in front of a group, unaware that we are speaking volumes as we do so. Furthermore, we do not communicate through “mind reading.” The speaker’s first intention should be to make him/herself
It has to become a completely willing act.
Credibility has very much to do with who we are and what we believe about ourselves (conscious and subconscious.) Gaining that knowledge takes time but is invaluable. The way we carry ourselves speaks volumes to our audiences and is filtered through the performance, speech or presentation. Basic credibility touches personal style and should be inquired into in depth. A good question to ask is: “am I credible to myself?”
You might be very comfortable with your body, your style, the way you dress, your taste in overall appearance, your sense of humor, your passion for a cause, your faith, your respect for human dignity, your extraordinary relationship with your husband, wife, partner or your children, your way-above average knowledge of a subject, your love of life or what you’ve gone through in your life, etc.
People are usually sensitive to what is very strong and obvious about you. If we are not busy hiding what is unique about ourselves, it elevates who we are instantly. You can’t trust yourself in a vacuum, you trust what is “real” in your life and especially what has touched you and inspired you. There are qualities we find inspiring about ourselves and, as a great wine needs to breathe, these qualities need to be exposed with full permission.
If we don’t understand you; it is not our fault!
The articulation, rhythm, volume, direction, agenda and destination of a speech, workshop or any public presentation are under the speaker’s control at all times. They contribute greatly to his or her effectiveness and overall feeling of ease.
Put it simply: make it your first and foremost intention to be seen and heard clearly through specific gestures, postures, staging, phrasing and actions. It is the most effective remedy to nervousness or tension. Tension comes from inaction.
If real estate is location-location-location, public speaking is intention-intention-intention. The golden rule is simple: if you commit or execute something with purpose and intention, you will come across effectively.
Self-consciousness comes from two sources: (1) Not trusting or committing to how we feel, and (2) Not committing to what we are doing physically and emotionally. In both cases, owning and committing to how we feel keeps the energy moving in the right direction. When we “sit” on our energy, we start panicking. Panic in a very real way is a sudden overflow of thoughts without grounding in the physical world. That’s why when we get fearful or nervous, we are more present to our thoughts than our physical sensations and feelings.
We can’t hear you when you speak; only when you stop!
Rhythm in any discipline has to do with interruption. In music, silence interrupts sound and creates harmonious rhythm. More often than not, both public speakers and performers haste to speak without pausing. The same is true with eating; if we eat without rhythm, we create confusion within our digestive system. Everything in life contains natural rhythm through interruption: Seasons, harvests, work cycles, meals, conversations, meetings, projects, trips, etc. Without interruptions, our activities would be far too difficult to bear.
Everything one “does” in the public arena has purpose, down to the smallest gesture, facial expression, posture, use of the stage or voice intonation. According to researchers and psychologists, communication is made up of 55% physical actions commonly known as body language, 38% voice tonality and 7% words or content. If we go beyond the obvious humorous implications, it translates that what you do is what makes you understood, not what you say. What you do is modulated by pausing. The art of speaking is in truth the art of pausing. (See article)
We cannot hear you when you speak! Consequently, only our actions matter absolutely. They reveal our conscious and subconscious intentions. If you commit to what you do, they will listen! The subtext of any public performance has to do with the things we do but do not say; it speaks volumes and very effectively. It is where true self-expression and the “magic” of a good speech, performance or presentation begin.
I will publish part 2 of “Essential Public Speaking Manners”, on December 23, 2021