Three Ways to Improve Your Stage Presence

By: Guest | June 27, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written and recorded by Jill Foster.

Have you ever been told your stage presence was “duller than a box of rocks?”

To clarify: It’s a special level of suck.
A straight-talking mentor gave that feedback years ago after seeing me deliver a speech. At the time my wounded ego just wanted to resign from public audiences altogether.

Studying stage presence and public speaking, however, became a fascination. And to this day, how to energize stage presence remains the most popular question from colleagues, students, or clients.

They are often bewildered at what to do.
Which is understandable. Causes could be rigid or feeble vocals, over-accelerated pacing, anxiety management or a sundry of things. Sometimes it’s purely a content issue where certain writing vehicles can add momentum to the presentation. Much of the time, the content is solid and the stage presence needs help.

Energy, impromptu storytelling, and social apps
A colleague further framed this challenge so well and asked,

How can I make my energy more consistent from a stage presence point of view?

Presenting in front of a live audience and feedback community is stellar practice for stage presence – such asย Toastmasters or Ignite. In lieu of those defined public scenarios, there’s another option.

An absolute favorite and results-inspiring solution is to practice with social applications.

The goal?
Practice impromptu storytelling and externalizing your voice as often as possible with a few audio and video tools (smart phone apps included). Keep your recordings private if that’s preferred.

Investing conscious energy in this exercise a few minutes a day can expand energetic capacity when facing live audiences.

Suggestions for social tools:

  • Audio apps: or are mobile and web platforms with reliable audio, a simple interface and the ability to add other types of media to your audio casts. Both have apps for iPhone and Android;
  • Video and group apps:
    • Viddy is emerging as the Instagram of video: it enables 15 seconds of recording with visual filters. Talk about energizing your mind and vocabulary in a hurry! It’s a compelling tool with some major growth since its recent launch.
    • CloudTalk is another fascinating platform with both iPhone and Android apps. It allows you to share video, audio, and text to public users or to a private group
    • Blurb, a storytelling app, looks fascinating but I’ve yet to toy with it.

Perfection vs progress
When it comes to upping stage energy, nothing replaces the chance to practice in front of live audiences from a defined stage space. Often, waiting for perfect circumstances inhibits ultimate progress; so I vote for creating a stage-like dynamic with social tools as the above-mentioned. What do you think?!

Becoming your own best audience
Whether recording via audio or video, these tools (and you) become your own reliable audience. And the chance to practice impromptu storytelling or simply get your voice out of your head is an energetic exercise. From my personal work and through observing others too, this practice has fostered more fluid and energized presence from the stage.

Are you game to try these exercises?

What other ideas have helped you galvanize your own stage presence?

Live Your Talk founder and videoblogger Jill Foster is a speaker coach for people in technical and social tech fields (or as some say: a speaker coach for techies). She has coached CEOs, entrepreneurs, and innovators makinโ€™ it happen for stages such asย TEDand TEDx, Ignite, plus a variety of keynotes around the globe.

  • Great points here. Stage presence is a very difficult area for many people. But to get that great energy I think it’s important to practice as much as you can to a real live audience. The video applications listed seem like an effective way to get out of your comfort zone in the first stages of improvement, but I think to really take that jump in your speaking skills you must be put in front of a real group of people. Then you must translate the energy you are able to achieve in videos to a real application in person. Thank you Jill for the post!

  • Jillfoster

    You bet @StephRWong – engaging with live audiences is irreplaceable experience.

  • CristerDelaCruz

    It starts with content, but I agree… energy is absolutely CRUCIAL. As someone who stands under 5’0″, I have to make the most of what I’ve got! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I love fiddling around with audio and video, so I’ve bookmarked all sites you listed and will be checking them out.

    My stage presence is still a work in progress, but I think I’ve got good raw materials to start with. It’s funny that coming from an acting background, I thought bridging over to do speaking engagements would be easier – BOY was I wrong. Being myself onstage is a whole lot scarier than inhabiting a character, so I’m continuing to hone my skills.

    Thanks for the great tips and the heads up about what looks like some really excellent tools to play with! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hey Jill; DC, huh? I thought I saw someone cutting across the yard behind you; that’s why the horn was honking.

    I concur about the practice, even if it seems corny in front of your peers. It’s better to bomb in front of them than a live audience, huh? Also, if you film it you’ll notice you are probably doing something with your hands that are distracting.

    My voice projects well, but I do need to be conscientious of enunciating clearly. Impromptu on any topic would come easy, but I want to be able to present by telling the story w/out one single umm or uhhh.

    I don’t think you can practice too much and it is a work in progress, just like anything else.

    You bring a certain level of energy and animation that is captivating. Good to see you at the Spin Sucks house today.

  • Jillfoster

    @bdorman264 Hi Bill – Thanks a lot for the kind words and sharing your speaking interests too. That’s a wise point you make about practice being a work in progress. For those “um/uhs” — consider reading a favorite passage (from a book or article, etc) and reading it at a very fast pace 10 times in a row, then 10 more times at a normal speaking rate, then again – 10 more times – at an excessively slow rate.

  • Jillfoster

    @TishaBerg What a great background to have as a presenter. Congrats too on being open to practicing (and increasing) self awareness as a speaker with those social tools. Hope you have fun with it. On a related note, empathizing with the audience’s experience can be such a challenge as a public speaker, I find. Your acting history looks like a powerful fund of expertise to draw from when it comes to practicing that empathy.

  • Jillfoster

    @CristerDelaCruz Fantastic point to underscore re: focus on the calibre of content first when presenting. And hey, we’re near the same height so you have my admiration on that front. Sometimes I feel like a hobbit (…ode to Lord of the Rings) in comparison to other speakers. But “own it” we must still do when on stage. Thanks for sharing your “just do it” attitude.

  • Strong atage presence is HUGE! and so challenging and takes a ton of self confidence.
    Great content can fall flat if you’re just up there droning on.
    I think about my best teachers and they all had great stage presence. Bueller? Bueller?

    Love these tips. And I love love love your video. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Stage presence too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • CristerDelacruz

    @jillfoster You’re welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jillfoster

    @Lisa Gerber Hey hey Bueller! Thanks again for the chance to participate here in SpinSucks land and for the kind feedback.

    Great call about strong content falling flat in the face of energy-less delivery too. It can be a tricky business to assess what needs to be done from a development point of view. But after seeing presenters like the teachers you mentioned, or mighty speakers like shonali – it puts into focus how penetrating an effect presence can have on audiences (good thing). What do you like presenting on the most? And when are you headed to DC?!

  • Alexandrafunfit

    @Jillfoster You’re welcome.

  • @Jillfoster Thanks for the tip; maybe it will help me overcome perpetual jet lag………………..:).

  • @Jillfoster Hmm, lately I’ve been presenting to small businesses on using LBS. I have an awesome pic that I open with, that I took – of a small stack of phone books holding up a vase of flowers in a restaurant. That’s the new role of the phone book!! LOL.

    Aww, I have no plans to be in DC in the near future, and my sister even lives there. maybe you’ll be in Chicago sooner. ?

  • Jillfoster

    @Lisa Gerber ….maybe to Chicago next spring for a conference, or sooner. Love your phone book image too.

  • Thanks @jillfoster for all the good tips and reminders I learned from your Blog World NY session. Practice really is key. I am now going to take your advice and get myself together so I can practice by putting together a video for @tinu ‘s challenge!

  • SpinSucks

    @beekeepergroup Thank you for sharing the post. Love your concept of Beekeeper.

  • TishaBerg

    @Jillfoster My pleasure – really enjoyed your article and got some great tips! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jillfoster

    @rachaelseda @Tinu Heartily look forward to your video challenge participation Rachael.

  • ginidietrich

    Hey Jill! I’m late to the party, but a few things. First, thank you for the video contribution! Secondly, I need to have you teach mollimegako how to do the editing like you did. Lastly, it’s so hard to get up in front of people and entertain. The rapid fire Q&A is a great idea. One I’ll steal when I’m helping my colleagues prep for speaking engagements.

  • Jillfoster

    Hey @ginidietrich thx for feedback and kind words! It was wonderful to have chance to contribute. Glad to share editing tips withmollimegako . Hope you’re good.

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