When you finish speaking your immediate priority needs to be to clear the stage.
Events with multiple speakers on the line-up can be a buzz of activity. With different presenters needing to set up, tech check and get mic’d up, there’s a lot going on. The last thing you need as you approach the stage to get set up is to find that the previous person is still in the way.
There’ll be short scheduled gap for change over and the next person–perhaps that’s you–will be raring to get everything hooked up and tested for the start of the next session.
What happens at many events, quite naturally, is that once a session has ended audience members will approach the stage and want a few words with the presenter. They might have questions that were too specific for the Q&A, might be seeking clarification, or want to make an introduction or just express their thanks. All completely normal and welcome.
The trouble comes in that the presenter gets wrapped up in those conversations and makes no steps towards packing down their laptop, handing back their mic, and clearing away any of their personal items currently taking up the lectern space. It delays the turnaround and generally sets everything behind.
The solution is simple. When you finish speaking, unless there’s a long break such as lunch, your immediate priority needs to be to clear the stage. Get your laptop, charger, clicker, adapters, half-empty water bottle and whatever else you have sat up there and remove it from the stage area. Take your mic off and return it to a techie, or if no one has appeared, set it neatly on the lectern.
The snag is always that an audience member will approach before you’ve had the chance to do this. Just say something along the lines of “Hi! I’ll be right with you, let me just clear my stuff out of the way”, and then clear your stuff out of the way. No reasonable person should feel snubbed at this, as it should be clear that you’re acting in the interest of the next presenter, and therefore in the interests of the event and consequently of the audience itself. You’re only being considerate.
Of course it’s important that you keep your promise to get back to the individual who wanted your attention, but it’s always great to chat to people at the end of a presentation, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Just remember, once your presentation is done, clear the stage!
Advent speaker tips: this is part of a series of tips for public speakers that we’re posting throughout advent. Check back daily during December for more.