The audience don’t need to know stage directions

You’re watching a film. It’s a ghost story and the film begins with thick fog, an isolated house and sinister music.

The scene is set.

A young woman dressed in a smart jacket and skirt enters the frame and approaches the house. As she walks towards it she speaks aloud to herself, “It’s a lonely road. I am looking nervous and afraid. I look to my left and to my right. I am suddenly startled by a hidden bird noisily taking off from the grass verge as I approach.”

In the film, a hidden bird then bursts noisily from the grass verge.

No doubt, if you were watching this scene the dialogue of the young woman would puzzle you. You would probably be asking yourself ‘why is she speaking the normally hidden script directions in the film? How is this adding to the suspense of the story?’

The truth is, of course, it’s not adding to the suspense of the film – it’s ruining it.

That’s why any decent director would tell her not to do it and to just say the lines that are needed.

As someone watching the film it would also be obvious to you that it’s ruining the story experience. You don’t need to hear the screen directions because you can already see what is happening on screen.

So why do so many speakers make this exact mistake in their presentations by including their script on a slide?

Two reasons:

  1. They write their original script using a slide program. They make a storyboard that lists titles, headings, bullet points, subtext and notes. This is their script along with their structure, which is fine at this stage. What they forget is, their final performance needs to be rehearsed and memorised so the audience finds it believable. Having their script on a slide reminds the audience that the speaker is still rehearsing their part.
  2. They don’t have a director who objectively watches what they do and advises them on what is working for them and what isn’t. A director would say “always having your script in your hands reminds me you’re an actor rehearsing your part whereas I want to believe the character you’re portraying so please learn your lines.”

If you have slides full of bullet points and text that is your rehearsal script and it should not be in your actual performance. If you keep it in, you’ve not learned your part properly and the audience will know this.

It’s advisable to get a ‘director’ to observe your performance and criticise it honestly. Remember you will be both working towards making the story more believable and more powerful for the audience.

Finally, getting some training for your performance is also advisable, as you’ll then know what your strengths are and how to make the most of them.

So, to avoid creating moments of unintended horror in your presentations get in touch with me now and together we can construct a happy ending.