I ask because it's a step overlooked by many speakers, or one dismissed by some organizers, probably because it sounds too simple. Why would you need some orientation to the stage before you speak? I have 6 reasons you should get on stage before you step out there to speak:
- Lighting for you: Getting on stage will help orient you to where the lights are in relation to you while you speak. If the lighting isn't as it will be during your talk, ask a technician where the lights will hit. Then plan where you'll look, so the lights won't blind you. If they're mounted high, for example, you'll know not to look up into them and can plan accordingly.
- Lighting for the audience: While you're on stage, ask how and whether the audience will be lit. Will you be able to see them and get visual feedback? Or will you mainly be hearing audience noise, rather than seeing faces? You may be relieved or disoriented by not seeing your audience, and asking the question now lets you anticipate what else you can do to stay confident.
- On your mark: If you're going to move around while you speak, is there guidance for where you should and should not go? What are your sight guidelines? Should you stay centered, between certain aisles of the audience before you, on the front third of the stage? If the speech is being recorded, where are the cameras? Do they constrain your movements? Do you need to change your gestures to suit the space? Only a look around stage will tell you.
- Entry and exit: Where and how are you stepping on stage--from the audience? Who'll ensure you're seated conveniently? Do you have to travel on stage up some steps? From the wings? Which ones? If you are being introduced, where will your host stand and where will she exit? If she's coming back on stage when you're done, where will she re-enter? Once you know your entrance, plan your exit, too.
- Monitors: If you're using monitors, teleprompters or other speaking aids, where will they be? Can you see them with your speech loaded, so you can check the type size and whether your notes are readable?
- Intimidation factors: Is the hall a grand one, full of chandeliers and balconies? Is it intimate, with the audience close enough to reach out and touch? Either one can intimidate a speaker in its own way, or put another speaker at ease. Getting an eyeful of the intimidating aspects of your venue can help take some of their power away when you're ready to really deliver the speech.
Looking for famous speeches by women? Check out The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, with a wide variety of women speakers, types of speeches and topics to inspire your next speech. Each one comes with lessons for speakers, plus video or audio and a transcript, where available.