Don't Let Others Eclipse Your Presentation



It's August 21, 2017 and it's the day of the Great American Eclipse. As I watched it on video, it reminded me of a public speaking situation where the speaker gets eclipsed by another speaker or group. It's especially common in meetings but can also occur on the platform. It's what actors call being upstaged.

Just like the pattern of a total eclipse, it often happens gradually. It may begin with an initial interruption. Then the interruptions become more frequent during the presentation. Next, the person begins to challenge you. The invader may use expansive body language to invade your space.  Because of  where the presenter is seated or physically positioned, the speaker can appear small or invisible, easily eclipsed by more prominent personalities. Or maybe the audience doesn't like your ideas and derails the presentation

You don't have to let anyone block your sunlight! To maintain the spotlight here are six tips:

Prepare. When presenting new ideas or material to a group, committee, or board, do your homework. Anticipate their objections. Call each member individually before the meeting to test their receptivity. You want to gain their support prior to your presentation.

Arrive early. Whether it's a meeting or a stand-up presentation, to own the room you must assess the room. Sit in a power seat where you will be most visible. Quickly read the room as people enter and identify who are your supporters and detractors.

Get physical. Sit up straight and never shrink in your seat. Take up space. This will prevent others from overpowering you. Make direct eye contact and project your voice. Use your presentation voice and not your conversation voice to own the room.

Don't upstage yourself. Too many pubic speakers are eclipsed by their own PowerPoint. By standing next to the screen and reading the slides, presenters sabotage themselves by allowing the technology to take the spotlight.

Find an advocate. Our board members were videotaping their promotional messages. After I finished, the producer started filming the next presenter. She started to say what I had already said. At that moment, the producer stopped the camera and said, "You're stepping on Diane's lines."  He made her do a retake. Her attempts at upstaging me were thwarted.

Stay mindful and present in the moment. "Audiences are smart", states Greg Skura, actor and communications coach. "They can tell when someone is trying to upstage you. Less is more. Be mindful and present and you'll stay confident in the moment and know when to find your way back into the scene at hand."

For more tips on public speaking and communication, visit