Comedians, politicians, and generals know it. So do rock bands, poets, and magicians. Leaders would benefit from knowing it, too.
Stage presence matters.
Stage presence reflects the ability to capture and command the attention of an audience. Leaders can learn a great deal about presentational excellence by studying how the world’s best stage performers create the energy that mesmerizes audiences.
For starters, too many presenters focus on their notes, slides, or only one slice of the audience. Watch great stage performers, and they work the whole stage and all sides of the audience. They make sure everyone feels the performance is directed at them. This means scanning back and forth from one side of the room to the other, and making eye contact with as many people as possible.
To maintain the energy, the best practitioners never allow for gaps in performance. No waiting while the technology is initiated, or between the conclusion and the Q&A. Less space between all parts of the presentation allows the energy to build and not dissipate. This sounds like a small issue, but great performers will tell you otherwise.
Watch a great stage performer, and you will notice they display high energy, even in small gestures. They move quickly from spot to spot. They grab an instrument forcefully. They stare intensely at a water glass. Such attention to small actions keeps everyone in the audience fixated on the presenter.
Lastly, great stage acts involve the audience in the performance in some way. They ask those in the audience to sing with them, answer a question, clap along, applaud on cue. For presenters, involving the audience, even a large one, often takes the form of a direction. Asking an audience to perform an action is a sure-fire way to engage them fully. Standing up, turning to the person sitting next to them, shouting out an answer, holding up a hand or a number of fingers. Directed actions pull an audience into a presentation and keep them there.
Turning audience members into fans is as important for leaders as it is performers. Working on your stage presence is an important step toward capturing the hearts and minds of those you lead. Who knew you were a rock star?