There's a charactor in 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' who you should always approach with a towel covering your face. The creature gets confused, thinks that if you can't see him he can't see you. Sadly, many people think this is true of their audience. Don't be fooled. The fourth 'wall' (ie: imaginary wall that separates you from the audience) does not exist. I repeat: Does. Not. Exist.
Unless their eyes are being purposefully drawn elsewhere – the audience WILL watch you as you cross the stage to place that small chair next to the flower arrangement; or fiddle with your tie, clean the spinach from your teeth, stand up laboriously to give that speech, or cross the stage to hand over a tiny piece of paper to a principle speaker.
Today's tips are for presenters/actors who are on a stage, or in a room, say for a networking meeting/banquet or any social or business event.
1. If you are in a large room and getting up from your chair to stand in front of everyone… then make sure you've stood in the place where you will be giving your presentation beforehand, so you can get a feel for where your space will be. This will give you confidence as you get up to go there as know where you are going.
2. If you're on a stage, be in position in the side-wings five to ten minutes before you have to go on. During this time you can check through anything with stage manager or get your radio mike on etc. If possible there should be a full length mirror off stage for you to check your appearance.
3. Remember that the front of the room, isn't just the front of the room. More often than you think, the main presenters haven't thought about where they're going to be standing and can start talking to people in a corner somewhere. Or next to a table or large banner. It's tempting to then go and stand there too. But don't do it! Pick your spot, if you're on a stage it will be centre stage to own your space (speakers tend to hover on the left or right which makes them look apologetic).
4: I always say… Project your energy onto the stage first and then walk into it. Literally imagine yourself there already and then walk into your space.
5: Acquire your character/persona before before you stand up or walk on. Don’t leave it until you’re standing up or walking on, it’s too late by then. The audience will take notice of you the moment you are visible to them. If you are in the sidewings then it's easier than if you're sitting at a table. My advice is to stop chatting a few minutes before you know you are going to be introduced in order to get into your presenter mode. Sit up straighter. Wriggle your toes (it helps!) Clear your throat. Think about your opening words. Imagine yourself up there. Expand yourself so you can talk to a whole room instead of just the person sitting next to you who wants to now how the traffic was for you on the way there.
6. If you're getting up from your seat and then walking to the front to applause: Stand up, acknowledge the applause with a nod to the room and a smile, then walk on. Don't scurry on, remember there's no towel.
In fact any new entrance attracts attention. It's easy to think that the audience isn’t going to watch you if you don’t take any notice of them. But just think, that’s what actors do in plays all the time, and they are very watchable.
My final word:
People love watching ‘stage-business’ (People moving things around etc) Say it’s the start of an evening and the audience has just come in and is settling into their seats. You are asked to go onto the stage and fix a lead on a mike stand. Be warned that those people who aren’t talking to someone or reading a programme WILL watch you. There is simply nothing else for them to do.