Have you ever noticed great presenters bring in a sense of discovery while giving a speech? Their passion and commitment make you feel there is no place they’d rather be than presenting to you. Canned presentations seem stale and phony, but a speaker that is “in the moment” rings true. But how do we get “in the moment?” Recently I have been studying acting and have come to realize there are many parallels between great speakers and great actors. Studying great actors can take your speaking skills to another level.
Do you have any favorite actors? Do you ever look at how they use their craft to bring you completely into their world? Some of my favorites actors are Meryl Steep, Julianne Moore, Daniel Day Lewis, and Mark Duplass. (If you are not sure who Mark Duplass is, watch “Your Sister’s Sister”–I highly recommend it.) All of these actors tap into a deep, authentic place within themselves to find their truth in the moment with their character. It’s from that place that they are able to make interesting and honest choices about how their character responds and reacts to situations. That’s what makes them captivating. That’s what makes a scene feel real and not like they are just saying lines from a script. This transformation happens only when the actor is completely present.
In “The Present Actor” Marci Phillips writes, “The ability to Be Present is something that every great actor has in common….If you have any hope of suspending the disbelief of your audience and engaging them with what you are doing, then Being Present is crucial. If your third eye is out there watching and judging your every move, it’s going to be extremely difficult to experience and convey anything resembling Truth. Many actors get too caught up in pleasing whoever is watching them give an audition or performance that ends up meaning anything at all. Too much pandering can lead to inauthentic choices and stifled instincts. If you don’t entirely believe what you are doing then we won’t either!”
Do you see the link to public speaking? Have you ever felt distracted while presenting, worried that your audience was judging you harshly? When you are able to set your ego aside and instead become present with your material, play with it, and show how it is relevant and important to your audience, then you become persuasive. You also become more interesting. Your presentation takes on a sense of life and makes the audience want to become involved. Bringing in your spirit and speaking your truth will make your presentation compelling.
This summer I will be attending a two-week training in Spain called “The Creative Actor.” It will focus on how actors can improve their craft by tapping into a sense of play and spontaneity. These are definitely tools that relate to public speaking. I’m looking forward to the learnings that I can bring back to share with all of you!