Want to impress audiences with your public speaking? Try this technique to make your pitches and presentations fresh, powerful, and memorable!
Are you as dynamic as you'd like to be when you deliver a speech or presentation?
Do audiences sense your authority? Just as important, do your listeners feel that they're in the hands of a seasoned performer?
Want to establish credibility quickly and lead audiences to action? To gain true engagement and influence with listeners in pitches, lectures, speeches and presentations, download my essential cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker."
How to Be on Top of Your Game for Public Speaking
Don't be too concerned if you answer the above questions with some hesitatancy. It's a sad fact of our educational system and professional training that little attention is paid to oral communication and the business of persuading others.
That's where the techniques of the theater come in.
I've been training business people and other professionals since 2001 in my system of the art of spoken performance. As a professional actor, I know that to be on top of your game for public speaking, you're best served by using the tips, tools, and techniques of acting.
For many people, the self-consciousness, nervousness, and anxiety that accompany public speaking diminish either their performance or feelings of satisfaction for a job well done. Yet if there's ever a time when you need to be at your best, it's when you're delivering that important pitch, keynote, product demonstration, persuasive speech, or motivational talk.
Let's face it: the stakes can be high in any of those situations. So you need to harness your full focus and concentration with the best tools available to you.
Your Public Speaking Performance is Not the Time to Develop New Skills!
Now apply that need to the public speaking situation, where peak stage presence and performance is the order of the day. It stands to reason, then, that your actual time in the spotlight "isn't the time" to develop the skill set you need.
Yet too many speakers insist on doing so. They spend most or all of their time gathering and organizing content, thereby neglecting the performance skills which are the essence of engaging and moving audiences.
Think about your own habits. How much time do you spend taking notes, polishing your key points, obsessing over your PowerPoint deck, and preparing handouts? Now compare that with your time investment in getting up on your feet; carefully considering how you employ body language; using vocal dynamics effectively; moving and gesturing in your performance space; and generally becoming more at ease on your feet in front of a group of strangers? In other words, giving your attention to the performative elements of your talks.
And do you videotape yourself to judge how well you're succeeding in these critical performance aspects of your presentation? Here's how to use video to transform your public speaking.
As I tell my speech coaching clients: the chances are good that you should spend less time on organization, and more time becoming comfortable standing in front of groups talking to them and being comfortable with them. After all, it's your relationship with your audience and your passion that makes your message compelling and intriguing, not your data points.
Acting Techniques for Business Presentations
Fortunately, among the acting techniques to improve business presentations we train professionals in, there's an approach that can help make your speeches fresh, powerful, and memorable. It's called "the illusion of the first time." And it's specifically geared toward making material that you deliver dozens or even hundreds of times sound new and exciting for your audience.
For instance, you may have used a sales pitch many times before, and will do so many times more. Sales team, for example, often have a PowerPoint deck that every rep is required to use. So how do you make such a thing sound interesting and personal when you deliver it?
That's exactly the position the actor is in who is playing a role in a successful play that's run for months or even years. But audiences don't care about that (except that they may be coming because of the buzz created by a successful show). The theater-goer who paid $175 for his or her seat wants the very best performance that actor can deliver.
Just as important, audiences need to believe deeply that the events of the play or musical are unfolding in real time before their eyes. That's part of the magic of live theater. The actor is challenged, of course, because the lines were memorized long ago for the "new" moment about to occur on stage.
That's where the illusion of the first time comes in: the actor, through the art of acting, gives the impression that this is all real: in other words, this is the first time the character has ever faced this situation. And so the actor responds viscerally and with total conviction, saying the lines which represent that character's honest reaction to what's happening in the script.
Using The Illusion of the First Time in Your Own Presentations
The trick here, of course, is to make the content of your talk new for yourself. Only then will your performance, just like an actor's, be alive for your audience.
In a sense, acting isn't about doing anything--it's about believing. Once the actors believe they are the characters in the circumstances everything they do will be natural and right. You can accept the mandate that's the same for you and for actors: to put aside the circumstance of something said many times before, and look at it with a new insight. In other words, see your content and your message through the audience's point of view, who after all have never heard it all before.
Videotape yourself to see if in fact it sounds like you're saying it for the first time. And if vocal expressiveness is your challenge, tape yourself using audio only. You may be surprised to hear how excited you yourself can sound. From there, it's just a small step to getting audiences to share your excitement.
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