The Speaker Space
Speaker space refers to the audience’s perspective of the speaker.
During the live televised debate, there were two perspectives – the “live” audience and the “viewing” audience. Both of these perspectives require two very different sets of non-verbal skills. Let’s compare…
The live audience perspective
During the debate, all five speakers are on a very large stage and stand behind lecterns, which cover their leg and pelvic area. The audience is seated in an auditorium for over 1,000 people. For their non-verbal communication to be seen, felt, and heard throughout the room – the speakers have to use gestures, facial expression, and energy that are exaggerated in shape, size, and dynamic.
The viewing audience perspective
The viewing audience’s perspective is defined by the camera frame. During the debate, we see mostly half-close up shots of the speakers: upper torso, face, and a small area to the right and left. Compared to the actual stage, the camera frame is a much smaller space.
This space requires smaller, slower, and reserved body language. If not, the speaker will appear unnatural, hectic, anxious, unconfident. Hand gestures need to enter the camera frame, which may seem unnatural for the speaker. CNN used a text bar at the bottom of the screen, which reduced the frame even more. When the speakers’ gestures don’t come into the frame (or stretch past it), the viewer feels suspicious. It’s a natural reaction to want to see someone’s hands (you never know what they maybe holding). Sharp, large, and constant head and hand movements that seem natural when we speak in conversation, will seem unnatural in the small camera frame, perhaps even annoying.
The five speakers obviously targeted their body language for the viewing audience since they were in the millions.
Fill your speaker space
Next time you are speaking in public, think about the audience’s perspective. “Live” audience perspective: Use all the space around you to express. The larger the space, the larger your gestures, facial expression, and energy should be.
“Viewing” audience: know the camera’s frame – is it showing your full or half body? The smaller the frame, the more you will have to hold back the size, speed, and energy of your gesturing and facial expressions.
Practice speaking “small”
When we are roared up and ready to speak in public – it’s a contradictory feeling to hold back. So if you are speaking in front of a camera, prepare ahead of time. Practice speaking in the smaller space of the camera frame. Like all new situations, it will feel odd at first, to “hold back” when you want to give a powerful, killer talk. Take all the explosive energy you are feeling into one solid ball fueling you from your pelvic center in a slow, steady flow of power. When you get the right dose of energy, speed, and size to fill the camera frame, you will appear natural and expressive on the screen, just like you appear on stage.
Dyane Neiman is the Moving Speaker: www.moving-speaker.com. She helps business professionals at all levels, who are challenged to speak in public, in English. She always encourages people to observe body language to know what people are really saying. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tag: Analysis of nonverbal communication situation: the first Democratic Presidential Debate, Dyane Neiman analyzes speaker space from the audience perspective.