Theater-in-the-Round: Speaking and Presenting Effectively

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June 7, 2016

Note: This is part two of a three part series on Theater-in-the-Round.  Last week, the focus was on staging, this week is on speaking in the round, and then next week will be on having a panel in the round.  Enjoy!

Theater-in-the-Round is one of the most difficult staging configurations to speak in.  Where’s the front?  What about the people who can’t see my face – they only see my back?  Is my ass too big?

All important considerations if you don’t know how to speak in the round.  Here are a few pointers for your speakers:

  • Walk in a Circle. Since there is no “front” of the room, speakers must give equal consideration to all sides of the room.
  • Connect With One. As you begin your talk, look at a friendly face in the audience and stay with that person for a sentence or two, or until you complete a thought. Allow yourself enough time to connect with that person – typically three to five seconds. Then move to someone else in the room, distributing your mini-conversations smoothly and deliberately throughout the room, without being too predictable as to where you will go next.
  • Divvy Up the Room. Depending on the room and audience size, break the room up into quadrants and speak to one person at a time in each quadrant. Plant yourself in front of one section. Tell your story. Make your point. Land it with eye contact and a key message. Then turn clockwise to the next portion of the room. Tell the next story….and keep turning in the same direction.
  • Make it Conversational. Because it is such an intimate format, the speaking style is more conversational than presentational. Infuse the presentation with interactions with individual audience members and sections of the audience.
  • Trust the Circle. Many speakers get nervous that some audience members are only seeing their backsides. So they stop the flow and check to see if people are “following” what they are saying.   If you walk the circle equitably, you do NOT need to stop what you are doing to include the entire audience (unless you intentionally want to emphasize a point!)
  • Confidence Monitors. Many speakers prefer to use confidence monitors that project the slides and/or text they need to read. Place them on the floor directly opposite from each other with the stage in between. In this way, the speakers will always be able to see one of the monitors as they walk the circle.
  • Rehearsals/practice. Especially if the speaker(s) have never done this before, rehearsal is a must. It’s one thing to think about speaking in the round, it is quite another thing to actually speak in the round!
  • Enter/Exit From the Front Row. When not speaking, sit in the front row so you can easily get on the stage. This also makes you part of the audience…and you have already made some friends to talk to!

Theater-in-the-Round is one of the most challenging to coordinate and to present in, yet is the most audience-centric room set of them all.

If you could benefit from learning more panel moderation techniques, join us for this webinar on “Using Creative Training Techniques to Engage the Audience During a Panel Discussion.”

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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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