One of the most enduring and valuable lessons I learned from my favorite teacher and author Henry Hay (Learn Magic, The Amateur Magician’s Handbook) was how to manipulate people’s attention through movement and color.
I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but here’s the principle in a nutshell: big/fast movements attract the eye more than small/slow motions do.
Over the years, I have put this principle to good use with excellent results. I even have discovered a parallel lesson: the bigger and more colorful the objects the more they attract attention. So do louder sounds.
What all this means is that stationary objects on stage catch only passing attention. After a brief cursory look (if ever they get one) stage fixtures do not command continued interest. In like manner, performers who appear glued on one spot of the stage, appended to the microphone stand, fixed to the backdrop, or magnetized to a lectern will promptly lose the audience’s attention.
If you want people to watch you (and not the lizards crawling on the ceiling) engage their attention with movement and energy. Don’t be part of the background. Move on stage as often as possible. You can pace the length of the stage as many televangelists do during their lengthy sermons. Gesticulate like a good speaker. Or dance your way to your audience hearts—if you know how without looking silly.
Move with vigor as if this were a substance oozing from your nose and ears. Lethargy kills interest.
No matter what you do on stage, please don’t stand still like a statue—unless you are playing the part of a statue. Show your energy through vigorous movements. You will lose your audience in a minute if you barely move on stage.
Okay, I said that already. That’s because I’m in the mood to nag today.
Surprise, surprise! The principle of big/fast movement can be used in reverse to achieve the opposite of attracting interest. It can be used to hide movement—a killer principle to achieve stealth on stage.
Let’s discuss it tomorrow.