Public speaking or making presentations can be nerve-racking, whether you’re having to do so in a business environment or at a wedding or other special occasion.
Even though you are extremely competent in your chosen field you may not feel that when it comes to giving presentations or speaking at conferences or events that you are confident and prepared. As with all things in life however, there are ways to improve and many of the skills that are learnt by actors are transferable skills which can easily be applied to your own situation.
When you deliver a presentation or give a speech you are suddenly in charge of a mini performance. Not only are you likely to come up with the content yourself, you also cast yourself as the performer and decide how to present it. So you basically become a writer, actor and director all in one. If you don’t have that sort of experience then of course it’s going to seem quite tricky.
I can give you the skills you need to enable you to communicate more effectively. Wouldn’t it be great in these situations to feel relaxed and confident, to speak freely, to engage a room full of interested people – to know that that they are listening to everything you say and that by the end they will have been informed and entertained?
When you come to see me for a private session you are being given an opportunity to fail. That might sound odd as a starting point, but the very best actors fail all the time – in rehearsal. It’s part of what rehearsing is all about. Obviously you don’t want to fail when giving your speech or presentation in a real situation, but while you are practicing then being able to fail is part of that learning process and will enable you to improve. It’s important to recognise what you do now and see where you want to end up, in order to acknowledge and implement the changes necessary to give you the clarity and impact that you want.
Having said that, I’m not going to try to turn you into an actor (unless that’s what you want), but in many ways we’re all actors at heart. We all access different sides of our personality at different times. You probably speak to a partner differently to the way that you speak to your parents or children. It’s likely that you’ll show a different side of yourself at a job interview to when you’re in the pub socialising. You might not describe any of that as acting – but in essence it is. You’re changing your personality and the way that you are vocally and physically to suit a situation. Once you recognise that you can start to control it more and use it for those times when you need to give a speech or a presentation.
One of the main tools that we have at our disposal is to tell stories. Human beings love stories and we enjoy finding out about each other. As a speaker or presenter your audience wants to get to know you. They want to connect with you and they are on your side. One of the reasons that ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ was so successful as a show was that despite the fact that it wasn’t us on television, we still wanted the contestant to win. We cared. All too often when someone gets up to speak the material can be very dry and the presentation is full of facts. There are ways to present what you need to in a more palatable way – through sharing a little of you and using stories as a way to engage your audience.
During our sessions we consider your thoughts and actions, as well as looking at relaxation, body language, breathing, posture, speech, pausing, and emphasis. It’s all about making your message clear and giving you the confidence to know that you are delivering that message to the best of your ability. All of these things are essential to an actor and they can help you too.
There is a great deal of psychology in acting – which is one of the things that I believe makes acting so interesting. When you study a character you’re basically learning about people. You’re looking outside yourself and trying to understand what makes a particular person tick. I have an old school friend who is now a clinical psychologist and when we meet we often talk about the human condition, relationships, interaction and why and how we do what we do. We have these conversations as friends but also as experts in our own fields, but we are often surprised at how much crossover there is. I’m not saying that you should come to me for therapy, but I do have an understanding of people and communication through my work as an actor, director and tutor.
Finally, one of the things that people don’t often consider when giving a speech or a presentation is to listen to their audience. Often in life we need to be better at listening and these situations are no different. This might not make sense as it seems to be a one way street of communication, but that’s not the case. In life when we talk to someone we are constantly noticing their body language and can often tell what they are thinking by their expression. We change what we are saying by how they react and in fact we are constantly looking for reactions from those we are talking to. When giving a speech or presentation it’s important to consider that you are talking TO the audience, not AT them. If you can even interact with them at times – so much the better… but we’re probably getting a little ahead of ourselves now.
I have given workshops and presentations to hundreds of people over the years, sometimes in small groups of 2 or 3 but often in rooms with dozens of people. I know how it feels to stand up in front of people and to engage them. I’ve done it many times as an actor but importantly I’ve also done it as myself. When you deliver your speech or presentation it’s unlikely that you’ll be doing so ‘in character’. You need to be yourself, but a version of yourself that gives great speeches and presentations.
I can help you do that.