Whenever I direct a play – my actors will tell you my number 1 rule:
Remember that THE AUDIENCE CAN ONLY LOOK AT ONE THING AT A TIME.
Common sense tells you that if there are a thousand pairs of eyes out there, between them they’ll see everything on the stage. Wrong. They will only look all over the place if they’re bored. If they’re engaged then they’ll be looking at the one place where you want them to. So you must know where their attention is supposed to be at any one time.
Let me illustrate…
Excercise 1: To do next time you are in the audience:
Watch two people standing next to each other and talking. Notice how you look at one person then the other. At no point can you focus on both people at the same time, even if they are standing head to head. This is a mistake commonly made by directors and speakers everywhere. If the attention is on one person and the other makes a gesture, the audience will miss it entirely. This is particularly important if there are two speakers in a presentation.
Excercise 2: Next time you watch a dance ensemble, common sense says you can watch all 50 dancers at once. But actually you can only watch ONE dancer, the rest give an impression and fill out the movement. So the choreographer makes sure the best dancer is in the lead position.
Excercise 3: To do next time you are giving a presentation: 2 senarios: First: where you are sharing the presentation with another person and they have finished speaking it's back to you OR Second: the audience has just finished watching a video – any situation where the audience must look at you again…
Do a guesture, like take a deep breathe, or turn slightly, something that will make the audience turn their eyes to look at you. Stop a beat. Then speak.
Footnote: A 'beat' is not a 'pause' Find out the difference in my next blog.