How to Communicate Effectively On Stage – Vocally, Verbally, and Visually

Getting paid as a professional speaker takes a lot of hard, intentional effort. Being able to increase both your speaking fees and bookings per year requires a whole new level of energy, discipline, self-examination, and growth – both personally – and professionally. In fact, you can’t sustain growth in your business unless you are also pursuing growth personally. The better you are, the higher your Bookability Factor is.

This kind of focus and growth means you are willing to ask hard questions about your content, actionable points, delivery, stage dynamics, and overall impact, knowing the answers you receive may not be all that favorable at first. The good news is that addressing and improving areas where you receive critical feedback is an important factor to getting paid more and booked more as a speaker.   

Your value as a professional speaker is based on how much people are willing to pay to have you on their stage. So, what are speaker’s bureaus and event organizers looking for in a professional speaker? They want someone who WOWs the crowd, is engaging, and who gives the audience something of value they can use and implement immediately to help solve a problem or improve their professional or personal life in some way.

Content is critical. However, if you deliver life-changing content in a way that loses the crowd, it isn’t really life-changing content. Your stage presence and ability to keep the crowd focused and engaged is also essential to your impact, but you don’t want them walking away wondering what the main point of your speech was.

To communicate effectively as a Keynote speaker, it’s not just one thing – it’s everything. Speakers need to be aware of these 3 layers of speech in order to be a dynamic communicator: Verbal, Vocal, and Visual. Just having one or two out of the three won’t get you or the audience the results desired.


The verbal layer is your content. Content also has layers which include: your outline, your main point(s), stories that support your actionable points, facts, data, statistics, and anything else that you consider to be a bead or module in your speech writing process. [See the article about the Speech Writing Template].

To help you polish up and narrow down your content, decide what thought, idea, or action it is that you want the audience to walk away with, in a format that makes it easy for them to share that thought with others. Then, build your content around that ONE thing.


The vocal layer refers to the inflections in your voice. This is your tone, pitch, speed, cadence, volume, emphasis, and enunciation. Every aspect here, and combination there of, will convey a different emotional sense. For example, let’s just take the word, “Hello.” Now, as different emotions are listed, pause and think about someone saying it while conveying the emotion:  cheery, sad, angry, annoyed, scared, excited, sensual, tired, anxious, and indifferent.

As you repeated that word either out loud or in your head, you would have adjusted your tone, pitch, speed, volume, etc., in a way that would convey the listed emotion. Now, think about how you want your audience to feel during the different modules of your speech. As you practice your keynote, make sure your voice inflections clearly emulate the emotions you want to convey.


Before you even say a word on stage, the audience begins developing their assessment of you based on your movement, body language, and overall appearance. During your speech, every eye in the audience should be on you, and if they’re not, you may need to improve your strategy for visual engagement. This includes your eye contact, animated facial expressions, gestures, posture, your overall body language, your grooming, and your wardrobe choices.

Your appearance plays a big part in the audience’s first impression of you, so special care needs to be taken as you choose your stage outfits. Here are some thoughts to remember as you select your wardrobe for events:

  • A good rule of thumb for your appearance is that you dress at least one notch above how the crowd will be dressed. However, this is a thin line to straddle because if you dress too far above the crowd, their assessment will be that they’re in for a stuffy, old-fashioned speech, and that first impression is hard to overcome.
  • Choose something that is complementary to your branding. Do you have a particular color or color family? Is your branding bold and geometric, or soft and subtle?
  • Connect with your tribe and signal you are one of them by including something they can identity with. Are they skateboarding techies, creatives, designers, academics, in the medical profession, bootstrapping entrepreneurs, or administrative support personnel? Each tribe will identify with different types and styles of wardrobe, so choose yours accordingly – while also staying true to you and your brand.
  • Consider the type of Microphone you will be using. If you will clip on a wireless mic pack, be sure that what you are wearing will accommodate it.
  • Consider the height of the stage and the natural line of site for your audience, especially in the front rows. This means that ladies need to consider the length of your skirt, and everyone needs to consider the condition of their shoes, length of pants, socks, etc.
  • Most importantly, make sure your movements aren’t restricted in any way by giving your outfit a test run before the stage debut. If your outfit ends up being uncomfortable, it could be conveyed that you are just generally uncomfortable on stage, and that will detract from the overall impact of your speech.

As you can see, having a dynamic stage presence really takes practice and polish in all areas, not just one. Great content won’t be received well if the presentation isn’t engaging, and a dynamic stage performance won’t have an impact if the content doesn’t flow with memorable, actionable points the audience can easily remember and implement.

If you need strategic help with your keynote content, and / or with your overall communication style on stage, you may consider a Think Tank Day where you get a one-on-one strategy session with Elizabeth. Her insight and tested methods of speech-writing and delivery techniques will help propel your Bookability Factor quicker than any other investment you could make. The higher your Bookability Factor, the more you get booked and paid! The more you get booked and paid, the better your chances are of reaching those who most need to hear what you have to say.


As Featured In:

Bookability Factor – 67 Tips to Get you Booked and Paid as a Keynote Speaker  [Amazon Link]

By Elizabeth McCormick


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