Acting techniques are powerful tools for business communication. Here are 5 ways to achieve presence and charisma in all of your public speaking.
You're about to give an important presentation. You want to be good—really good. So where can you find the best techniques for engaging, entertaining, and moving your audience? As an actor, my answer is biased, but I believe it's the right one: consider the world of acting.
When I founded The Genard Method of performance-based public speaking training in 2001, my goal was to bring theatrical techniques to the world of business. What was true then remains so today: an acting-based approach is the fastest route to becoming a more accomplished speaker who can move audiences—any audiences.
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Below are five ways you can use the skills of an actor to improve the impact and influence of your own speaking.
How to Command a Stage for Business Presentations
1. Learn the Art of Speaking with Presence. This means developing “audience sense”—an awareness of how your audience is responding. Naturally, actors cultivate this attribute until it's a finely-tuned instrument. But you can benefit from awakening this awareness in yourself.
How can you do so? Practice the ability to present information while sensing how that information is received. You may find this challenging at first, since as speakers we're used to conveying content to the exclusion of almost all else. Instead, pay close attention to how your listeners are responding, for that's when you'll be truly present. Here's more on the theater-based techniques that can make you a more exciting speaker.
2. Learn How to Use Body Language in Performance. You already know that body language is a powerful tool of communication. But how can you use it productively in public speaking, going beyond gestures to truly have an impact on an audience? Here are 6 skills building exercises for effective body language you can use, as well as these suggestions:
First, learn how to use space. Try to decrease the distance between you and your listeners, for instance. And think about how your position in your “performance space” can be linked to your content. — Can your stage position be tied to the item you're talking about at the moment? Something as simple as moving to one place for each talking point can help. Most important, ask yourself this question: “How can I find physical expression of what I’m saying?” It’s at this point that you will truly begin to use body language effectively.
3. Learn How to Use Your Voice. Is your voice fully expressive? It needs to be, if you’re going to convey the subtle meanings of the points you're making. To get to that level, learn and practice my 5 key tools of vocal expressiveness.
To practice vocal improvement, record your presentations in audio only. That way, you'll be 100% mindful of your voice and nothing else. Work on one vocal tool at a time, isolating each until you hear improvement. Then go on to the next, and so on. Finally, practice your selections using all of the tools, since that’s how you speak when you're fully invested in what you're saying. And don’t stay in the world of business—fiction and poetry offer the best material for stretching your vocal apparatus until it's fully at your command.
4. Learn How to Lead Your Audience’s Response. Wrap yourself too much in the cocoon of your content and you may as well be speaking to an empty room. Think of it this way: Your content is actually one of the two engines of an audience's response. (The other is you.) So you should be constructing your message not only so that the audience can follow it, but in a way that allows them to respond in the right way, at the right time.
Here’s an example: I recently coached a client who had to tell his team about a directive that had just "come down from corporate." New accounting procedures were being implemented that his team had to follow. He was ready to dive right into details. But I pointed out that he really needed to land hard on the “we-have-to-do-this-guys” aspect of his message at the start.Then the details could follow, because his team's response had to be: “I guess we’d better pay attention to this.” It was the audience response he needed at just that point in his remarks.
5. Discover the Spotlight for Speaking with Charisma. Every actor knows the expression “Find your light.” It means that if you're in the dark on stage, step into the light source so you can be seen. Audiences find it hard to pay attention to actors they can’t see!
Let’s tweak that idea slightly, and say this: When you present, you need to become comfortable being squarely in the spotlight. It means accepting your central role and the exposure that comes with it as a speaker. Some presenters are uncomfortable with that level of scrutiny, and it shows. But public speaking is performance. If you don’t like it—if you don’t learn to love it—you’ll never achieve the influence you’re capable of.
Now, go out there and light up your performance space.
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