Polishing Performance Ep06: Entrances and Exits

You should know how you’re coming on stage and you should know how you’re coming off stage. Don't leave this to chance.


  • Going on stage

    Acknowledge your announcer but don't touch. Know where you're going and find your mark.

  • Coming off stage

    Know your exit location. Exit with confidence. This should be part of your rehearsal.

  • Get onto the stage ahead of show day

    It is very important to have a real sense of the room before you get on stage for the first time. Get yourself into that space how ever you can!

My rule is "don’t touch." When you pass your announcer on stage, acknowledge, smile, and then begin your talk. You guys can hug backstage after your talk and you can do that all you want. But on stage, just don’t touch.Kymberlee

Kymberlee: One of the topics that people don't spend enough time working on is entrances and exits. It's true. This is something that you should know. You should know how you're coming on stage and you should know how you're coming off stage, and not leave that to chance.

Alan Irwin: That is your first impression that the audience is going to have of you, so stepping out confidently is really important. So many talks I've seen where somebody's stepping out and you don't know why you're going to listen to this person. All those elements, coming out strong, looking confident, to the degree you can scan stuff out ahead of time, know what the stage is like, all that preparation is going to help.

Kymberlee: I really want to highlight that because you need to know your environment. You've got to get into the stage and walk that stage before your performance. If you have to sneak in, do it. Get in that space. You want to know how the floor is, the lighting and the sound. Everything. That'll also help with your nerves, as well, if you know where you're going.

Also, have a destination. Don't just randomly, one time start the talk here and now start the talk here, and now here. You want to know where you're going. As you walk out onto the stage, have a place where you're going to begin your talk that is planned in advance.

Alan Irwin: Right. I mentioned briefly, but I think it's important to come back to it, if I get a chance, I will look out at the audience before stepping out, so I can pick out the people I want to focus on. I know what the audience looks like then and I don't have to go through that entire exercise when I'm stepping out on the podium or wherever I happen to be speaking from.

Kymberlee: Hopefully you can look in the audience and pick out one person. Just one person. And you can deliver your first lines to that one person, instead of trying to scan and see everybody in the audience. Just have that really intimate connection to one person at a time.

Alan Irwin: Agreed. Exiting. Trying to get off that stage. Feel confident with that as well. It's interesting how often I'll see somebody who looks embarrassed at the end. Maybe there's big applause, whatever's going on, and they look like it's never happened to them before in their lives. That doesn't give a sense of confidence. It may be endearing at some level, but you want to be able to leave confidently, know where you're going, exit strongly.

Kymberlee: This is part of your rehearsal, it should be. You need to know where you're going, how you're coming on, and how are you coming off? If you finish your talk and there's the huge applause, you just want to smile, acknowledge, and just go off stage.

Alan Irwin: Right.

Kymberlee: Not kind of go, stop, start. Just make a commitment and walk off stage. Also, one thing that I find happens in working with a lot of TEDx events, is you will be introduced. In speaking in general, you're introduced. You've got a host that's going to announce your name and there's huge applause, and you come onto the stage. (We're going back to entrances for a minute.) So what'll happen is the host will go to shake your hand and then you go to hug. Or vice versa. And you guys get all tangled up. We had someone at a TEDx Event where the host went to shake and the person went to shake, and the watch got caught in the bracelet! You don't want to do that right before you're about to give the talk of your life and here you're tangled up with someone.

My rule is don't touch. Just don't touch. Whoever is going to announce you, when you pass on stage, acknowledge, smile, and then begin your talk. You guys can hug backstage after your talk, after the exit. You can do that all you want. But on stage, just don't touch. You could even have a discussion with the person that's going to introduce you beforehand to let him or her know what you're going to do.

Alan Irwin: One quick addendum to that, there will be times where something goes wrong. You step out on stage, you trip, you bump into somebody, something like that. You've really got to feel confident that you can walk by that and let it go. Mistakes happen, the audience is not going to be upset about that if you just keep going and feel confident. It's when you react in a big way and lose your place that it's going to cause any real long-lasting problem.

Kymberlee: If you start your talk off with a story, something that's really personal to you as my mentor Bo Eason has taught me, that can really help with that confidence that you're talking about. If I know that, then I'm not going to start my talk with a bunch of random facts or something I have to memorize and remember, but instead, I'm just going to tell a story of something that happened in my life.

Of course, I've rehearsed that like crazy, and when you start with a story, that really helps ground you. It helps you feel amazing in the first lines of what you're going to say.

Alan Irwin: Agreed.

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  1. Excellent information for any speaker. Important to think about.
    Liked presentation – thoughtful with humor!!!

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