During the long days of COVID lockdown, all our club meetings were held online via the Zoom video-conferencing service.
In many respects, it was a whole lot of fun. Twice a month we would connect to Zoom and see a familiar patchwork of faces on our screen. Then during the break, we would escape into a breakout room and enjoy a ‘virtual cuppa’ with a select band of friends. But perhaps best of all, we had visitors from many other Toastmasters clubs from around the world, giving our club a truly multicultural flavour.
However, it’s fair to say that Zoom is not without its limitations. The principal drawback is that when giving a speech, the speaker needs to remain within the rectangular frame defined by their camera. This limits the range of movement and gestures that the speaker can deploy to reinforce their spoken message.
When COVID meeting restrictions were lifted by the UK Government, we decided to resume live ‘in-person’ meetings at the Burlington Hotel. However, there was still one nagging problem that had to be faced. After 18 months of online meetings, we had learned to live within the constraints of Zoom. So how would people adapt to this new-found freedom of giving their speeches, with a whole stage area at their disposal?
In my role as VP Education, I wondered how I might make this transition easier. So, I decided to put together some tips on how to make the most of the stage.
The more that I thought about it, the more that I realised there were in fact three groups of people that the presentation needed to address. Here is how I decided to categorise these different audience segments:
Newbies: brand new members who had joined the club since we resumed meetings at the Burlington on October 8th. These were ‘untainted’ by Zoom but would still benefit from advice.
Zoomies: people who joined the club during the period of lockdown, when all our meetings were held on Zoom. These folks generally had little or no experience of delivering speeches in front of a live audience.
Crusties: these were long-time members of Worthing Speakers Club. But after 18 months on Zoom, I figured that they might have picked up a few bad habits.
Within my education slot, I described six tips to maximise the effectiveness of delivering a speech in front of a live audience. This guidance applies to all Toastmasters. However, it is especially relevant to those members who have up to now delivered all their speeches on Zoom.
Here is a brief summary of my six tips, with a special focus on the needs of Zoomies
Tip 1: Carefully arrange the furniture – know how to adjust and correctly position the lectern for maximum comfort
Tip 2: Don’t fidget with props – novice speakers should avoid the temptation to ‘fidget’ with props when nervous
Tip 3: Make yourself heard – unlike on Zoom, audience members can’t just turn up the volume
Tip 4: Let your body talk – when on Zoom, hand gestures must remain ‘in frame’ but the stage gives speakers the freedom to use more expansive gestures
Tip 5: Project your power – on the stage you can employ exaggerated ‘Power Poses’ to give your speech more impact.
Tip 6: Movement as emotion – freed from the constraints of Zoom, it’s possible to use movement across the stage to give more depth and drama to your speeches.
You can find a detailed description of these six tips in the educational handout which I prepared for the occasion.
Click here [ https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KHD_WoXA7sJbEjfmxI3vhL8p79t0y4P9/view?usp=sharing ] to download a copy.
So regardless of whether you are a Newbie, a Zoomie, a Crustie – or simply prone to making rambling speeches in praise of Peppa Pig – you will find the advice contained in this handout invaluable.
Rather teasingly, I concluded my presentation by declaring that each member of the audience has a licence to thrill. All they have to do is gain mastery of the six tips of the tips which I described in the document. Good luck with your journey!