What to do the minute you take the stage? C-SPARK

by Michael Rickwood

Of the three million articles written about public speaking, isn’t it refreshing to read something useful in under three minutes? I think so, or at least that is what I would appreciate. So here are my three minutes’ worth for you.

It’s high time to get live presentations kicking again. But can we go back to them seamlessly like before? It can be a little daunting after such a long spell presenting virtually. We’re so used to seeing a wall of participants with cameras off and hearing the sound of compressed silence when we take a pause for thought. It’s now time to dust off our soft skills and get back in the ring in front of live audiences with clicker in hand, slides behind us and a sea of people waiting to be wowed. 

So, when you have to take the stage, what’s the hardest part? 

The first couple of minutes. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little check-list of actions to get us through those moments? To help ground us and anchor us? Well, I have one I’ve been working on for a few years now. I call it the C-Spark. C-Spark is a checklist acronym that I run though in my head each time I walk out in front of an audience – and it works! 








The C is for Center Yourself. Whileyou’re backstage or waiting in the audience to come on stage (or to get up to speak in your meeting room), take a moment to center yourself and focus. Take a few deep breaths and look to calm the area around you. Calm yourself by disengaging in conversation with peers and try to keep your brain alert but calm. 

The next five items are when you get out there on the floor: 

Scan (your surroundings). 

As you take your mark, take it all in. Presence is externalizing your attention and reacting to external stimulus. Take in the audience, the sound, the vibe. Don’t cut yourself off from it by fretting inwards. Look at the audience as you make your way over. 

Plant deep (plant yourself and take a breath). 

Find your mark, plant your feet, breathe deeply and take all the time in the world to gather your first thoughts. 

Ask (the audience). 

Once you’ve planted yourself, open your shoulders, widen your arms as if to make a small embrace, and smile, as if asking for their attention and creating visual contact. 

The last two are a combination:

Reach out & Konnect. 

With an open hand gesture, Reach out to someone specific in the audience, Konnect with your eyes with them and proceed to speak your first idea to them. Repeat for the following idea/line with another person and Reach out and Konnect. This should give you forward momentum and energy. Continue this throughout the presentation. Pause between your phrases.

There you have it. Under three minutes. But these techniques might take you three days, or three months to perfect. 

Have a go! 

And if you are a stickler for detail, find a coach, family member, or colleague to present to, and incorporate their advice and learn from their reactions.

While you may very well be an expert in your subject, keep in mind that ‘the audience always knows best’ ;-)

And of course I have much to share on that topic, but my three minutes are over!

Thank you.

* I know this should be Connect, but it’s easier to remember C-SPARK than C-SPARC. Anyway, poetic license!