Today’s episode is about how to deliver a speech when you have people sitting around you and you stand in the middle: a very unusual stage set-up, but one that seems to gain in popularity.
In the last month I have done two speeches where the setting has built around a “round stage” (ie where the audience is sitting around you)
The first time was for 1600+ people at the Superannuation conference in Australia (big gala-lunch setting). The second time was on Monday for 100 top managers of Johnson & Johnson in China (intimate workshop setting).
Both times I was there to deliver a keynote speech.
The round stage is great for the audience. It creates a closeness to the stage.
As a speaker it makes it harder.
My first tip is to not get intimidated. Many speakers who go up on a round stage get scared. And fear shows.
How to conquer the intimidation:
1) Spend more time on the stage during rehearsal than you normally would. (To get used to it)
2) Turn around so that everyone gets to see your face (of course) but do not turn around ALL the time. See it as a dance.
3) If there are cameras: Make sure you look at the camera so that people who are facing you back can still see your face on the screen.)
4) If (!) there is one part of the room where less people are sitting spend a bit (!) more time facing the opposite way (ie so that that space gets more of your “back”, but not too much.)
5) Do NOT mention the fact that you are on a round stage, that you are feeling awkward “showing you my ass”, etc. Never draw attention to the fact that you are a speaker on a stage. It distracts from your message.
6) USE the fact that the round stage set-up makes the audience come closer to you which gives you an opportunity to engage more and closer with more audience members. Make them FEEL that they are sitting closer to the stage, otherwise the whole purpose of the round stage-set up is lost.