Your Speaking Space: Become Adaptable the Way Actors Do

In my last blog, I provided two strategies for successful business speaking that are rooted in theater techniques that I used while I was rehearsing and performing the role of Amanda in The Glass Menagerie this past summer.

Here is another technique you can use in business to enhance your confidence when you are about to make a presentation:  know your venue and become adaptable to the space, so that you can speak comfortably in a range of situations.

Our set for The Glass Menagerie depicted a tenement apartment in St. Louis during the late 1930’s.  Right before one performance, the stagehands had placed a heavy chair in the wrong spot on stage.  I had been directed to sit on the arm of the chair all the way stage right, at an angle facing away from my scene partner.  With the chair in its incorrect spot, my sitting on the chair that way would block half the audience from any view of the action.  I had previously thought of various other options for my stage movement, so I was able to improvise a solution during that performance.  Under the new circumstances, I stood in the stage area far right of the chair, to open up the view for whole audience.

Business speakers, too, should be ready to improvise physically when necessary.

  • Whether your business presentation or conversation takes place in an office, conference room, boardroom, or convention hall, visit the space in advance whenever possible.
  • Notice what is in the space and how it might help or hinder your ability to communicate.  Request what you do want and do not want to be “in your space”.  Then, assume that the space may not be just as you wish, and look for ways to improvise, if necessary.  Determine Choice B and Choice C for where you will be and where you will move, so that you can be ready to adapt.
  • During your advance visit, do a brief “walk-through” or “sit-through” of your talk.  Experiment with a variety of other spots for you to stand, sit, or move.  This will help you improvise gracefully (and give your audience a full experience) whenever you face challenges with the physical setup of the room.

Preparing for uncertainty in this way will give you a wonderful sense of security and the confidence that your message will have impact for your audience, even when your venue is not ideal!

 

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