Big Venue Speaking

By Tom Henschel

Caroline was coming from London to speak at her company’s annual meeting. During our coaching, we’d tackled her nerves and crafted a wonderful story for her to tell.

“But you know what I’ve never done?” she asked. “I’ve never talked on a stage that big. You know, with video screens behind you. And a big bare stage to walk across while everyone stares at you. You used to be an actor, didn’t you?”

“I was,” I said.

“Any tips for handling myself out there?”

I gave Caroline six ideas for feeling like a rock star on that big stage. Here they are.

  1. Rehearse in the space.

I’m a big believer in visualization. Picture the place as often as you can. Imagine being on the stage. There’s infinite benefit in this mental prep. But equally important is rehearsing in the actual space.

At large venues, normally you can have access to the space 24 hours before the event. But to get that time, you may need to request it well in advance. Tell whoever is coordinating from your side that you want time on the stage to rehearse.

  1. Imagine people

I mentioned visualization before.  Well, when you visualize, don’t forget to imagine people. And when you’re in the big empty space for your rehearsal, picture people.

Don’t use this as a tactic to scare yourself. Picturing people is a way to remind yourself what’s really going to happen. There will be people there. That’s reality.

  1. Use the equipment

Ask to test the sound with the real mike. Ask to have the real lights turned on. Ask to use the projector and use the actual clicker. Make it as real for yourself as possible.

People who work in these venues are busy. They may not want to help you. But it’s their job. Be nice but be assertive. Get them to help you.

Don’t be greedy. Others may need to rehearse, too. Or the folks from the venue may need to resume what they were doing. Don’t assume you’re going to do a full run through. But take in the space. Make it home.

  1. Be clear about entrances and exits

Ask to be shown exactly where you’ll be coming from. Ask how you’ll know when to go out. Take the walk out there at least once.

And don’t assume you’re going off the way you came. In truth, that is what happens most of the time. But not always. Don’t assume anything up there. Ask. And take the walk off stage at least once.

  1. The lights are bright

If you don’t have a chance to rehearse in the real lights, be prepared. The lights are bright. The lights are so bright they turn everything else dark. It can be disorienting if you aren’t prepared.

  1. It feels different with people

When people watch an event – theatre, sports, speakers at a meeting – they create energy. I’ve been in rooms that went dead silent, waiting for the next moment of a story. But that silence is not the same as an empty room. There’s a lot of energy there.

Filling the room with people changes the experience in the space as much as turning on all the lights.

At this step, Caroline protested. “Thinking about all those people gives me the wobbles all over again.”

“Do you imagine they want you to fail?” I asked.

“Probably not,” she said. “They just don’t want me to suck.”

“So they’re rooting for you,” I said. “And that’s one of the fantastic things about speaking in a big venue like that. There is a lot of energy pouring your way. And it’s all positive. It’s like being at your wedding all over again.”

She wasn’t ready to go that far, but she did put all those ideas into action. And, for her first time speaking in a big venue, she did well. With these ideas in mind, so can you.




For presentation coaching – large or small – with Tom, schedule a consultation here.