What is the Fourth Wall?

At General Assembly with Tommy Y & Jay Mays (standing up on his tiptoes, probably)

At General Assembly with Tommy Y & Jay Mays (standing up on his tiptoes, probably)

This past week Pitch Lab hosted a workshop at General Assembly in which we learned about breaking the fourth wall. Since there were a few questions about the "Fourth Wall," I want share the definition and connect it with public speaking. 

The Fourth Wall Definition

The formal definition of Fourth Wall is a theatrical term for the imaginary “wall” that exists between actors on stage and the audience. 

Obviously, no such wall really exists, but to keep up the illusion of theater, the actors pretend that they cannot hear or see the audience and the audience gets to enjoy the wonderful sensation of being a fly on the wall. The same effect often occurs in movies, only the fourth wall in that instance is a camera lens.

In some movies and television shows, actors purposely break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience. This happens in shows like Modern Family and The Office, when they conduct their interviews for the audience. Another example is Leonardo in The Wolf of Wall Street-- when his character confesses to the audience about how he ended up in his predicament. 

Image courtesy of the lovely & Talented @acting4sales

Image courtesy of the lovely & Talented @acting4sales

How Does this Apply to Public Speaking? 

As we learned, when commanding the room, break the Fourth Wall as many times as possible. This will keep everyone there with you in the moment and engaged in the experience. 


Jim Breaks The 4th Wall with his Whisper Voice

And since we talked about Jim Gaffigan, I want to share one of my favorite clips about cake! Notice what a great job he does changing perspectives and breaking the 4th wall through the use of his "whisper voice."

To learn more about breaking the fourth wall during your public speaking events or pitches, contact Pitch Lab. We can give your group a customized learning session and help them be more engaging speakers.