Bringing Your Living Room Vibes to the Stage

Some years ago, my wife wanted to see Carole King perform, and only because I’m such a great husband, I told her I would accompany her.  I wasn’t the biggest Carole King fan growing up, and before she came out to perform, I had plenty of time to look at that stage. I thought to myself, “Yet another reason why I’m not a big Carole King fan.”  To say the stage was unusual would be an understatement.

On the stage was a piano, a couch, some potted plants, a coffee table, an end table, two small carpet remnants, and a couple of lamps.  When I looked even closer, I thought I could make out a family picture or two.  I thought we were at a concert, but as nutty as this sounds, it looked more like someone’s living room!

Then the concert began, and rather quickly I forgot about the stage, and the odd setup.  I forgot about it because I was too busy enjoying one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. She sang beautifully, and each song sounded better than the next.  I was even surprised by how many songs I recognized and had no idea she wrote them.  But there was something else I couldn’t put my finger on; something else that made the concert so much better than almost any concert I had ever seen. There was an authenticity and a warmth to Carole King’s performance that was extraordinary.  I almost forgot I was seated at a concert with thousands of other fans.  As nutty as this sounds, I felt like I was in her living room, emotionally connected to every note she sang, and she was speaking and singing to me.

Take a moment, and imagine if you could give a presentation, and end with the audience feeling that they all connected to you?  Better yet, make it your goal to make the audience feel that connected to you, and you don’t need to decorate your stage like a living room to do it.  For instance:

  • Keep your delivery conversational. Give your voice the same bounce, and inflection, you’d give if you were having a cup of coffee and chatting with your best friend in your living room.  Remind yourself that you’re not giving a speech, or conducting a training program; You’re having a conversation.
  • Plan some spontaneity. Nothing makes an audience believe in the authenticity you are trying to project than something happening that appears unplanned.  When it happens, it’s magic, but who’s to say you can’t plan for something that seems spontaneous?  Set up an activity or exercise that provides multiple outcomes, and work with what comes your way.  What’s the worst that will happen; the exercise takes an offbeat or unusual twist? Trust me when I say this: That will end up being the best that will happen!
  • Talk to yourself. This tip might not be for everyone, but watch many professional speakers, including me, and you’ll see us talk to ourselves from time-to-time.  “You’re on fire Rob!”  “I guess you might want to repeat that one again, Rob…” and many others.  In no way am I suggesting you tell on yourself, and let the audience know when you’ve made a mistake.  I’m suggesting you play with the audience, let them occasionally hear from your alter ego, and some humorous thoughts that are going through your mind.
  • Show some vulnerability. No audience wants to see a perfect presenter. Let them know you struggled with some of the material you are teaching them when you learned it, or you failed at some of your first attempts to master what you are teaching them to do.  This won’t weaken your credibility; it will strengthen it.
  • Take some pauses. In my opinion, one of the most under used tactics when communicating, is simply pausing. It seems so obvious, and yet, a pause in a conversation is not nearly as easy as it might seem, and most presenters are too anxious to do it. When you allow yourself to pause, you will find yourself connecting at a deeper level with those you are communicating with. The reason is that pausing is what happens in a normal conversation. You don’t need to rush the conversation, and pausing allows you to show the audience that you’re thinking. Just that simple strategy mimics what you’d normally do in, well, your living room.

It was no accident that my wife and I felt a connection to Carole King at her concert.  Unbeknownst to me, the concert was titled, “The Living Room Tour.” This particular “tour” was so massively successful, a live album was created from this tour and given the same title.  Work hard to create that level of connection in the presentations you deliver, and you’ll touch people with more than just your words.  You’ll connect on a far deeper level, and they’ll never forget you.

Related: Unlocking Motivation: Two Key Strategies