Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Using the Stage for Impact!

I’d like to share with the secrets of professional presenters in terms of how they use the layout of the stage to maximum advantage. I’m also going to tell you how one of these principles applies to your visual support and how you lay out your screen.

Below is a typical stage . . . with an audience in front of it.

Areas of the stage you can use to your advantage.


Television is so pervasive in our society that it dictates to a large extent how we view things . . . literally. But, I suppose the concept I’m going to share goes much further back in time to the printed page and beyond. Here’s the principle:

Things move right into the future!

OK, so that doesn’t sound too earth shattering . . . and by the way, what on earth does it mean? Here’s the explanation: On a television screen, things (or people) moving from the left to the right are perceived to be moving forward. Going from the left to the right is moving backwards . . . to a previous location. Watch some of your favourite shows. It’s just something we take for granted. I would guess we’re programmed that way as a result of how print passages are laid out.

So it is with the stage. Moving left to right is perceived by the audience as positive – moving forward, or into the future. Moving in the opposite direction is perceived as moving into the past. If you’re doing a presentation in which you want the audience to feel positive about certain elements, move to stage left (from B to C, or from the audience’s perspective, across the stage to the right). (NOTE: stage direction relates to your left and right as you stand on stage and look out towards the audience. It’s the opposite of what the audience might perceive it to be.)

If you want to tell a story about the past, think of moving from center (or stage left) over to stage right (B). The perception will be that you’ve moving backwards or into the past.

The ‘A’ area above is the ultimate position of power. Move to this area when you have something profound to say, a major point to make or you give an answer to an important question. You will be perceived as more powerful and your audience will listen more attentively.

‘B’ and ‘C’ positions are less powerful and you should move to them when you tell less formal stories, or when you solicit questions. These areas make you more approachable.

When you come on stage, you should enter from back of stage right (D area) to the centre downstage (A area). This is the most dynamic and powerful entrance you can make and will add to your initial stage presence.

Finally, I’ve put two black lines in the upstage areas (towards the back of the stage). They denote screens for Powerpoint or other visual support. You should keep them away from center stage so that you are not continually moving in front of the screen. Which side is up to you (I don’t have the answer to that one yet), but you might keep in mind how the material you’re showing visually contributes to the rest of your presentation and where YOU want to be on the stage when you deliver it.

Now, how does this right to left and back rule relate to visual support – what you put on the screen? Think of how the stage is partitioned into two areas – one for future (forward) movement and one for past (backward). If you are going to build material on your slide, you want to be aware of whether you want to psychologically move your audience backward or forward.

For example, if I wanted to paint a picture for my staff of what the policies are now and in the future, I’d make sure today’s policies were on the left side of the screen and that I dissolved tomorrow’s policies onto the right hand side of the screen at the appropriate time. Likewise, if I wanted to take them back in time, (to contrast what’s happening now), I might show today’s information on the right side of the screen and add (or dissolve) the past information onto the left hand side of the screen.

Always take a moment to ‘stand back’ and view your visuals from the audience’s perspective and you’ll hopefully gain a bit of insight as to how you should develop them. Paying attention to these simple ideas of space relations can help you perform a far more powerful presentation and move things right into the future!

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