In the world of theater, there’s something called “the fourth wall.” Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s the imaginary wall that exists between the audience and the actors. It’s meant to help actors develop more believable acting skills and to forget the presence of an audience. The audience can see through the fourth wall, but the actors are meant to interact and move as if a real wall were in place.
However, we continue to see the disappearance of the fourth wall in forms of entertainment and education. From the classroom, to the movie screen, to the stage of theater and presentations, the barrier between audience and actor is changing.
Backstage.com put together a list of 14 films that famously break the fourth wall. And popular shows like NBC’s The Office have done this with great comedic effect. With these shifts, it’s no wonder we are seeing changes in the way that speakers interact with their audiences, as well.
Author and CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc., Anett Grant, says, “We’re watching a different yet related shift in business speaking today, away from declaimed podium speeches towards a looser, more dynamic style.” This leads us to wonder,
To put it simply, no.
While public speaking and presenting have similarities with some elements of the entertainment industry, we can’t treat a speech like a play. Actors in a play do their best to stick to a script and keep each performance the same as the last one. But speakers and speeches should be attuned and reactive to the audience members who make up the other half of the communication setting of a presentation. They shouldn’t pretend an audience doesn’t exist.
Make every effort to present without a fourth wall. Do all that you can to tear down that fourth wall and to let the audience know their presence and their interaction matters.
Ethos3 understands the world of public speaking can be a tricky balance between performance and vulnerability. We’d love to help you find that balance.
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