Speaking on a platform that is surrounded on all side by the audience is known in theatre as ‘presenting in the round’. It’s quite a different experience presenting to an audience that you sometimes cannot see! Here are some tips to help you do so effectively.
The main worry of a presenter in this situation is that they feel they are ignoring a part of the audience when their back is turned to them or that the audience cannot hear what they have to say. You need to reframe this worry and accept that it is impossible to face the entire audience all time!
Instead, plan to address each part of the audience throughout the speech. And not just by addressing one part of the audience before turning 90 degrees to address the adjacent section. Maybe turn 270 degrees. The audience is forced to ‘follow’ you and thus remains focused on you. It can also create a momentary pause which causes the audience to ‘wait with bated breath’ for your next point. If there is a particular group in the audience that you want most to address, do so but don’t ignore the others (especially during and Q&A session).
For two or three key sections of your speech (for instance if you’re using a list or a “first … secondly … thirdly” approach) try breaking it up into three to four words and present a word or point to each section of the audience. Or you can always turn and repeat the central key point to the other sections of the audience.
Psychologically, some presenters perceive themselves as ‘being surrounded’ and ‘trapped’ by the audience.
Think instead of yourself as the star of the show, the central point of reference for the audience. Think that there were so many people interested in your presentation that the venue had to set the stage up this way to accommodate them all.
‘In the round’ theatre normally has only 7-8 rows of seats so the audience is very close and can therefore see the smallest, most subtle movement. The audience can thus become laser-focused on the actor/ presenter’s body language rather than what they are saying. Therefore use bigger, more deliberate physical gestures and voice projection to keep the audience focused on the words.
While ‘In The Round’ has no ‘weak spot’ and traditionally the centre of a stage is the most powerful place to be, try using the whole stage. Try not becoming rooted to the same spot for more than about 20 seconds; practice moving to make a new point or going closer to the audience when the content of your talk calls for it.
As well as being the UK’s largest media training company working with almost half the FTSE100, we also offer presentation and public speaking training. For more information, call Andrew Caesar-Gordon on 020 7323 2770 or email andrew@ electricairwaves.com.