Tag Archives: stage presence

8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

On Stage RBS lectern 1b

I have been a speaker and/or an attendee at hundreds of conferences and events and it often surprises me how many presenters are happy to stand behind a lectern and deliver a speech; it really doesn’t do them any favours when it comes to communicating their message effectively.

Here are 8 problems connected with presenting from behind a lectern:

  1. It creates a physical and psychological barrier to what you’re saying
  2. It can seem like you’re hiding which can portray a lack of confidence (you may well be feeling less than confident but in most cases you don’t want your audience to know!)
  3. When your hands are not in view it can create a mistrust of you
  4. It restricts your movement and gestures, therefore limiting an essential part of your communication
  5. It can feel like you’re giving a lecture which in most people’s minds equates to boring so they switch off and don’t listen to you
  6. You will be tempted to lean on it or grip it instead of using gestures
  7. It can be more difficult to see the audience and their reactions to your presentation
  8. It can be more difficult for the audience to see you and if they can’t see you they are less inclined to listen to you

It can also look ridiculous if you’re short like me as the photo above taken at Royal Bank of Scotland Conference Centre shows. Compare that with the image below which really highlights the difference stepping out from behind the lectern can make.

On Stage RBS 7c

Whilst in some circumstances the lectern can define a position of power and credibility that you may not have, in most cases the benefits of coming out from behind the lectern are far greater. For example:

  • It portrays the message that you are pleased to be there and that you want to communicate effectively with your audience
  • It shows that you know your content and that you don’t need to hide behind a lectern
  • It makes you seem more approachable
  • It helps you to build rapport and create a better connection with your audience
  • It helps you appear more natural
  • It increases trust
  • It helps you to make good eye contact with your audience
  • It adds visual interest for your audience
  • It stops you relying on your notes and helps you to speak from the heart
  • It ensures people can see you and your entire body, therefore you have more of your communication tools available to reinforce your message with your gestures and movement – behind a lectern you only have your voice and face (if you’re tall enough for people to see you!)
  • It gives you the opportunity to anchor different parts of your speech to different parts of the stage or presenting area e.g. walk to a position and stop to deliver your next point before walking to another part of the stage

I don’t know about you but as an audience member I always find that talks and presentations delivered without the lectern are far more engaging; the speakers may make themselves more vulnerable but there is power in that. As a speaker I like to move about the audience where possible and when I do so I find I get a much better connection with people. There are of course challenges with that, such as moving out of the light, away from the microphone or out of camera shot if it is being filmed. However, if the organisers know in advance that you want to step out from behind the lectern they will usually be keen to make sure you have this option; just make sure you give them plenty of notice of your requirements and always ask for a lavelier microphone where possible to give you the most flexibility.

As a presenter it can sometimes be scary stepping out from behind a lectern, but the benefits to the way your audience relate to you and receive your message are so great that I encourage you to give it a try (even if you’re usually a lectern gripper like the woman in the cartoon below!)

LecternGripper_Final_2 sm

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_




Why I can’t keep quiet about my latest project!

Virtual Summit

Have you ever come across something that is such amazing value that you can’t wait to tell people about it?

Well, that’s the way I feel about the upcoming Boost Your Business Speaking Online Virtual Summit which I’m delighted to be part of.

The summit is mainly aimed at business owners currently using or thinking of using speaking to boost their business, such as speakers, coaches, trainers, authors and consultants. However, it is packed with value for anyone wanting to improve their public speaking generally or introduce speaking (online or in person) as part of their marketing mix.

I don’t want this post to sound salesy, but there are so many business owners and entrepreneurs I know who would find this summit beneficial, that I felt compelled to write it!

Over the three week summit, thirty expert speakers will be sharing their tips on:

  • How to give a great talk that engages your audience and increases your credibility
  • How to integrate speaking into your business model so you can increase your income potential significantly
  • How to market your speaking in new ways to reach those who matter most to your business

The topic I’ll be covering is ‘Offline Secrets for Online Speaking Success: How to Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind for Successful Presentations’ where I’ll be sharing why you should warm up before a presentation as well as loads of techniques to help you look and feel more centred, focused and confident when presenting.

Other topics covered include ‘Charisma: Discover the Secret of Audience Engagement’ with Nikki Owen, ‘How to Create a Persuasive and Inspiring Speech’ with Shola Kaye and ‘Confidence on Camera: How to Present Your Power for Video, Vlogs and Virtual Summits’ with Lottie Hearn. Plus info on creating online products, getting your contracts right, marketing using Facebook ads, Periscope and LinkedIn and much more.

If the summit sounds like something that would benefit you personally or your business, you can find out more and get access to the free digital magazine here.

I personally can’t wait to listen to the interviews over the next three weeks and to get hold of the value packed giveaways that every speaker will be sharing.

Here’s that link again – see you at the summit!


Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting

Image - Success boy small

How confident do you feel when you stand up to speak in public?

How confident do you appear to be?

Would it surprise you to know that most people appear far more confident than they think?

Nerves before a presentation are normal and important. Feeling nervous means you care and, therefore, you will put extra effort into ensuring that your message is communicated to your audience in the best possible way. Nervous adrenaline is also useful for giving your presentation the energy it needs to keep your audience engaged, as long as you use your nervousness effectively rather than allow it to overpower you.

Almost everyone, even a professional speaker, will sometimes feel nervous giving a presentation, especially in the first few minutes until they get into their flow. But regardless of how nervous you feel, the great news is that you are unlikely to look as nervous as you feel.

In the past few weeks I have had the privilege of hearing more than a dozen speakers give talks on a variety of topics; most of them have been interesting and engaging but some could have been more effective if they portrayed a bit more confidence in themselves and their message.

So here are five easy ways to look and feel more confident when speaking in public:

  1. Dress for Success

At some stage in our life, most of us have worn an outfit that we didn’t feel good in; maybe it didn’t fit well or the colours weren’t flattering or maybe it was simply uncomfortable (unfortunately I find this with most high heel shoes!) You may have attended an event and realised that your outfit wasn’t appropriate; maybe it was too dressy, too casual, too thick or too flimsy, all of which can cause a different kind of discomfort all together.

The first step in feeling confident is to be confident in what you are wearing. Take the time to ensure your outfit is comfortable, flattering, appropriate for the event and represents you in the best possible way.

  1. Own the space

If you have been asked to give a presentation or talk it is because someone thinks you have something important or interesting to say. Even if you’re not feeling it, the audience expects you to project confidence in your message. One of the best ways to portray that confidence is through your body language as the audience will be reading this before you open your mouth to speak.

You will appear more confident if you:

  • check out and move about in the presenting space before anyone arrives so you can get comfortable in it
  • stand tall and straight with your head up
  • use the space available and don’t stand too far back from the audience (although only ever move with purpose; no aimless meandering!)
  • make eye contact with individuals in the audience rather than scanning over the tops of their heads
  • use open gestures and make them bigger if you are presenting in a larger space so that they can be seen in the back row and beyond
  • take a moment before you speak to stand and be fully comfortable before you utter your first words; this allows the audience to check you out visually and prepare themselves to listen

These suggestions will not only make you appear more confident but will help you to feel more confident too.

  1. Open strongly

You only have a few seconds for an audience to decide whether they are interested in listening to what you have to say so it’s important to engage them from the very beginning of your talk. A strong opening that connects with your audience will get you off to a great start and boost your confidence in those crucial first moments.

There are various ways to open a presentation including asking questions, telling a relevant story or incorporating the use of a prop for the element of surprise. Or you can use simple language to hook your audience in.  Here are two examples that I particularly liked from recent talks:

  • “Think back to when you were 8 years old…” – this approach allowed the audience to engage their brain and connect the topic with their own experience
  • “I wish you could have been there to see it for yourself…” – this approach was intriguing for the audience and we were immediately ready to listen to the story that followed

Decide on your opening and then practice it so that it comes across clearly and you can project confidence from the get go.

  1. Take a moment

When speaking live, all manner of things can happen to interrupt the flow of your presentation. Distractions inside or outside of the room (or inside your head!) can lead to you losing your place or having a complete brain freeze.  I saw this happen to two speakers recently and both of them handled it extremely well even though they both felt like it was a huge disaster. Whilst your first reaction may be to panic if you mess up for any reason, most times your audience won’t notice. And even if you do get complete brain freeze, your audience will not mind if you need time to find your place again. Smile and take a moment. When you have found your place, continue on from there; if you do this with confidence your audience will remember you for your message and won’t even recall you ‘taking a moment’ during your talk.

  1. Embrace The Applause

At the end of the presentation your audience will want to congratulate you on a job well done. However, I often see presenters give a great talk and then quickly scurry away the moment it is over (I have been guilty of this myself in the past). Regardless of how you feel your talk has gone, it is important to respect the audience and give them the opportunity to show their appreciation. Ensure you have a clear finish to your presentation, stand tall and look at the audience whilst they applaud you. You can also use this time as an opportunity to silently express your gratitude and thank them for taking the time to listen to you.
Even though most people cringe at the thought, I strongly recommend that you film every speech or presentation you make and then review it objectively afterwards. If you follow these tips, you’ll definitely look and feel less nervous, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how confident you appear to your audience as well as how much more effective you are at delivering your message.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential


7 Simple Rules of the Stage for Presenters

7 Simple Rules of the Stage

I was watching some musicians performing in a show at Edinburgh’s Jazz and Blues Festival recently and it surprised me how unaware they seemed to be about some basic rules of the stage. These fundamentals are also crucial when giving a presentation so in this post I will share with you some of the points you should take into consideration whenever you are in front of an audience.

It’s all about the audience

This seems obvious but sometimes performers and speakers appear to forget that the whole reason they are on stage is because there is an audience there to watch and listen to them. Therefore, it is important that you keep the audience in the forefront of your mind at all times to ensure that they can hear and see you properly.

In the jazz band I was watching recently the piano was unfortunately set on stage so that the pianist had his back to the audience the entire time. This wasn’t so bad when he was playing, but when he introduced the songs he didn’t leave his stool as the microphone stand was placed beside it. Hunched over to speak into it, he awkwardly twisted around trying to face the audience, but the angle meant that half the audience still couldn’t see his face and his voice (and presence) was impacted by having to bend over.

You are in command

When you are on stage, you are in control. Therefore, take control and own the stage. If the microphone is set too low or too high, adjust it to suit you. If the set up means that you can’t be seen properly, adjust it to make sure you can be seen.

The microphone provided for the pianist I mentioned above was unfortunately set at a height for him to speak into when sitting at his piano. After trying to twist around while sitting, he eventually decided to stand up but in order to speak into the microphone, he was completely bent at the hips and standing side-on to the audience so one part of the audience got a perfect view of his behind! It was very awkward and detracted from the fabulous music he and his fellow musicians were creating. Much simpler for him to take a moment to adjust the microphone height and placement so that he could stand comfortably behind it and face the audience.

This illustrates the importance of arriving early, familiarising yourself with the environment, knowing the stage, checking the sight lines and making sure everything is as you require before you begin.

Find your light

Professional stage performers will be very familiar with the term ‘find your light.’ When you are on a stage there will be certain areas that are well lit and other areas that may cast shadows across your face. To ensure your audience can see you, especially your facial expressions which are a crucial part of your communication, it is important to stand where you can feel the light on your face and in your eyes.  Be careful of standing directly under a hot light though, as it can ‘wash out’ your features in the glare.

If you have an opportunity to watch speakers on the stage before you, take note of where they are standing when they are in the best light and areas to avoid.

Consider your ‘costume’

What you wear has a massive impact on how your audience will perceive you. In fact they’ll be making judgements about you before you even open your mouth to speak based on how you present yourself.  In a future post I will share some tips from several experts in colour and image on how to choose the best outfit for your presentation.

In the meantime, here are some factors to be aware of when choosing what to wear:

  • Find out what colour the background will be and choose a colour that ensures you stand out rather than blend into the surroundings (e.g. don’t wear black if you’ll be standing in front of a black curtain)
  • Regardless of whether you’ll be turning around, think about what you look like from behind as it is fairly certain the audience will see it at some stage, even if it is just as you are walking to the stage
  • Ensure your outfit is well ironed and maintained – no ladders in your tights, no drooping hems and especially no loose threads hanging down as this can be incredibly distracting when highlighted by stage lights
  • Wear what makes you feel good but ensure that it is appropriate for the occasion – it is better to overdress than under dress
  • Avoid fabric that creases easily
  • Avoid accessories that jangle or are distracting
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and ideally rubber soled to reduce noise if you are on a wooden floor

Stay open

‘Staying open’ is another term used in the theatre; it is about keeping your body open to the audience. Be careful not to ‘upstage’ yourself which means that you have positioned your body on a slight diagonal angle towards the back of the stage. This happens to actors when they are doing a scene with someone who is positioned behind them on the stage and they are trying to speak directly to them. It can happen to presenters when they are indicating towards slides on a screen behind them and also if they are being interviewed by the host or MC for the event who might be unknowingly upstaging them.

So angle your body out towards the audience, use open gestures and if you have to turn full circle always turn in the downstage direction (towards the audience). Remember that people pay to see your face, not your behind!

Show your personality

The best way to really connect with your audience is to allow your personality to shine through. In the performance I mentioned earlier, this was demonstrated beautifully by the pianist when he eventually acknowledged that the microphone was in an awkward position and made a wee joke about it. He then told a personal story about the next musical piece to be played and what it meant to him. This gave the music a whole new perspective and made it even better to listen to. After a clumsy beginning, I definitely warmed to the performance after getting to know the performer better.


To display great showmanship is to be able to present something in a manner that will appeal to an audience or aid in conveying the message or theme of the performance. Rather than thinking of the typically cheesy razzle dazzle ‘showman’, showmanship is more about being aware of every element of a performance or presentation – both the delivery and the technical aspects – reading the audience and adjusting your approach to ensure that they have a great experience.

Whenever you are presenting, whilst you should aim to come across as naturally as possible, it is important to remember that it is still a performance and your audience deserves the best you can offer. They probably won’t even be aware that you are incorporating these seven stage tips into your presentations to give your ‘performance’ an edge, but you can be pretty sure they’ll notice if you don’t.

What do you think? Do you consider these aspects when presenting? Have you seen a speaker who didn’t and what was your experience of their presentation? Please feel free to leave a note in the comments section and share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from reading it.

And if you would like more hints and tips about public speaking, head over to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential


What happens in a coaching session?


I’m often asked what happens in a coaching session and the answer is ‘it depends.’ I work with each individual client to meet their specific needs and this is established and agreed at the beginning of a session. Some clients have a specific pitch or presentation they are preparing for and need some guidance on the structure, content or delivery. We will work through it to ensure that the message is clear, concise and appropriate to the intended audience. If is the delivery that requires work, we will look at how you can use your voice, body and mind to engage your audience and enhance your message. I’ll provide tools and techniques for increasing your stage presence, using effective gestures and incorporating vocal variety.

Other clients may come to a coaching session to overcome their fear of public speaking or seeking ways to effectively manage their nerves. If that’s the case, I’ll ask some questions to help us get an understanding of where the fear or nerves are stemming from. I often use NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques which are extremely effective in creating powerful shifts in perspective and mindset. NLP techniques are also great for ‘anchoring’ feelings so that you can access your desired state at any time; for example you might want to anchor feelings of confidence and calm. As I have a background as a performer I also use techniques from the stage which include relaxation and deep breathing to help with focus and presence, and using your nerves to bring positive energy to your presentation.

Coaching can be booked as a one off session; alternatively we have a series of cost effective packages available to take you all the way from reluctant speaker to rocking your audience.

To find out more about how coaching can help you become a better public speaker, contact results@grow-your-potential.com

5 Ways to Develop Stage Presence

Image - Stage Presence

This week I have had the pleasure of staying at a holiday resort where the employees put on a show for guests most evenings. The cast was made up of volunteer members of staff whose day jobs varied from receptionists to sports coaches and activity organisers to business interns. Apart from the choreographer (who performed in every show) very few of the cast were professional performers and in most cases it showed despite their enthusiasm. But a few had incredible stage presence and it got me thinking about what makes someone stand out from the crowd when in front of an audience and how we can use this to engage our audience and enhance our message when public speaking.

1. Passion
One of the first characteristics that strikes an audience is how much passion someone has. The performers in the show that were committed to their performance and passionate about ensuring that the audience enjoyed the experience were the ones that stood out and therefore the audience was drawn to watching them over other less enthusiastic cast members. When giving a presentation, make sure you are passionate about the subject because it will be very clear to your audience if you’re not.

2. Connection
The most important part of connecting with an audience is to acknowledge them. Eye contact is the key to this and not all of the performers in the show were able to demonstrate this. When public speaking, regardless of the size of an audience engage with as many people as you can. In a large room it is important to maintain eye contact with someone for slightly longer than it might feel comfortable (as long as you’re not staring!) This ensures you really connect with that person and the energy generated from that interaction will radiate to the people around them even if you can’t make eye contact with each individual in the room.

3. Rehearsal
The performers who knew what they were doing were far more confident and as a result had far more stage presence. It was obvious who had practiced until they knew each step by heart and didn’t need to look at others on stage for guidance. These were the performers who could really connect and make eye contact with the audience because they weren’t looking around at each other. Rehearsing a presentation allows you to avoid referring to notes so that you can fully engage with your audience and appear confident and credible.

4. Training
Performing, like public speaking, is a craft that must be learned and honed and it was clear which performers had benefited from professional training as they had a polish and an edge to their routine. Great presenters are not born that way; like any skill, pubic speaking needs to be learned so it is important to invest in training and/or coaching to ensure that you develop techniques to enhance your speaking. This will give you an edge over other presenters and show that you respect your audience enough to offer them your very best.

5. Smile
The performers who were smiling throughout their performance were definitely the ones that held my attention and made the show more enjoyable for all. A smile shows that you are human, you are sincere and that you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Of course, depending on the subject matter, smiling throughout a speech may not be appropriate. However, in most situations a genuine smile is a wonderful way to build rapport. How many presenters have you seen who go through an entire presentation without smiling at all or smiling at the very end with relief that it’s over? Let your personality shine through by connecting with your audience through a heartfelt smile – I guarantee your audience will thank you for it.

I have enjoyed taking a bit of time out over the last week and watching the shows was a fabulous reminder of the importance of stage presence when in front of an audience. Try incorporating these tips before and during your next presentation to develop your own stage presence and let me know how you get on. I value your feedback so please do take a moment to comment by clicking on the ‘Leave a Reply’ link above.