Stage presence isn’t natural—some people are so good at it you might be tempted to think so, but it is enormous work, and countless hours of practice fools you into thinking either you have it or you don’t. Sure, some people’s gifting makes it easier than others, but it is work for everyone. Here are some principles of basic good stage presence, and this is what we came up with:
KNOW THE STAGE
Know the steps onto the stage. Know where you should stand, where the lighting is best, and know the front edge of the stage. Make a mental note of any unusual parts of the stage and get an idea of your “sweet spot” where you’ll spend most of your time. It is also a good idea to walk the stage beforehand with lights fully up so you get an idea of your crowd blindness. Oftentimes, people on a stage for the first time are thrown by the strength of the lights in their eyes and are tempted to cover their eyes. Never talk about the lights or the sound—fight your instincts to shade your eyes or talk randomly off-topic.
KNOW HOW TO WORK A MICROPHONE
Be sure you hold the microphone up to your mouth—people that aren’t used to the stage tend to make the common mistake of holding the microphone away from their mouth. Make sure the microphone is right up near your mouth, rest it on your chin if you have to. If your hands are filled with stuff, that stuff will tempt you to move the microphone around too much. Either memorize what is on the cue card or put it on a music stand in front of you. When you ask someone on stage a question, remember to hold the microphone up to their mouth, too. Typically by this point in the service, even a rookie emcee has figure out they need to hold the mic up to their own mouth, but too often forget to help the crowd hear the other person on stage, too.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THERE TO DO
Someone has trusted you with the entire stage—and remember that everything is the message, not just the message, so what you’re doing is very important. You now control the room—you are there to build energy in the room and excitement toward the next element, you’re there to bring the crowd down to what’s next, or you’re introducing something. Either way, you’re not the star of the show; you are driving the vehicle with passengers and what people want to see. Know what you’re there to do and get off stage!
KNOW YOUR ENTRANCE AND EXIT
If you’ve got an opening line/bit/joke, it will really help get you started on the right foot. Equally important, a great run on stage ends with a fizzle if you’re not sure how to end it all. If you’re throwing to video—sell it. If you’re introducing a person, make the transition obvious. However you come in or leave the stage, make sure you have a plan.
Anything you would add to this list of basics?