Is public speaking like acting; as a professionally qualified actor and a presenter, I believe they are similar and here’s why, with a few hints and tips along the way.
Is public speaking like acting: Yes or No…
In both instances you perform live in front of an audience. You are communicating a message that you hope by the end of the presentation/performance would have resonated in some way with the audience.
In the modern age of social engagement, the world’s attention span has reduced significantly. People struggle to deal with large volumes of dry content. This has meant that storytelling has become more important than ever when delivering a presentation.
Powerpoint is dead! Or at least a possible hindrance to communicating your story. Images and video can help bring your story to life, but nothing is greater than the imagination, so take your audience on a trip down memory lane. Challenge their perceptions and inspire them to think and act differently.
You’ve got your attendees list, so you know whose coming and hopefully what they do.
Next you need to…
Start with the why!
Simon Sinek summarizes, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’
Is public speaking like acting? If it is you need to think about why you’re in-front of the audience. Why you do what you do. Why they would want to listen to you. Don’t sell them the dream, show them your dream.
You need to create a narrative that clearly demonstrates what it is that makes you so passionate about the subject your speaking on.
Do use tools, imagery or any paraphernalia that will highlight or further the point you’re trying to make. But don’t let it tell the story, that’s your job. Without you, there would only be a garbled unintelligible script in front of them, it’s your words and insight that will bring it to life.
So, you’re fearful of public speaking? You don’t know what to do and how to do it. You can’t ever imagine yourself on stage.
This fear can eat you up and stop you from ever getting up in front of people. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re the only one.
You need to knock that fear into touch by focusing and building on those things you are confident and passionate about.
Actors get scared too
So is public speaking like acting, yes it can be…
Do you need a shot of whiskey to calm the nerves? There’s been many an actor who has taken this advice and possibly had a few too many along the way.
After a while, you become comfortably uncomfortable presenting or maybe like waking up at 5:30 every morning with your toddlers. You didn’t plan for that in life, however it becomes the norm and you learn to adapt.
Actors deal with nerves in many ways, through superstition, alcohol and through praying; mostly that they have a kind audience and remember their lines.
But in reality it doesn’t have to rely on a wing and a prayer. With good preparation and planning and with a commitment to improve your craft and to sharpen the saw, there is no reason why you can’t become more confident at public speaking.
Mostly it’s around self confidence or failing that; perceived self confidence. I’ve heard of people doing stand up classes to improve their confidence on stage. Or you could join a local amateur theatre group. Practice makes, mildly competent if not perfect!
But where I’ve seen people improve simply and within the confines of work, it is through presenting in safe and small environments.
Why not start with presenting to your team or other teams within the business. Request feedback and use the feedback to positively improve your presentation style.
All things begin with research
Acting gives you the opportunity to be vulnerable as somebody else. You create your character, explore their history and then tell their story on stage.
Actors are able to get up on stage and combat their nerves because if they are good and committed to giving a great performance, then they have researched their character in great depth; they have learnt their lines and know their positions.
More importantly they embody the story they are going to tell; they own the stage!
This level of preparation and planning builds confidence and even when you’re on the side of the stage with your stomach in knots, know that there have been many others in your shoes, waiting in the wings. It is your preparation, planning and embodiment of your story, combined with a rush of adrenaline that will ultimately take over.
There are actors who rely on creative energy and those that create their character through a detailed study of the human mind and body. There are also those who are able to expertly combine the two.
Remember you don’t need to be great on your feet and good at improvisation. That can work for some and helps keep the energy up. However a very intelligent, well thought out and planned presentation, can often leave the audience feeling better informed with specific and tangible results at the end.
You can find this with different political leaders and their presentation styles. Some spark enthusiasm, trust and commitment through their engaging style. You want to follow them because your values connect with theirs.
There are others where they give you tangible and actionable things that you can take away; like building a wall or specific military intervention or direct action.
I’m naming no names!
Decide what it is that you want your audience to feel and understand. Make sure you’re also clear on what your audience is likely to expect.
An audience of recruiters will want tangible and actionable steps they can take away and implement that day. A Recruitment or Talent leader may be happy with some high level introductions that they can take back to the team to research further.
Public speaking nerves & public speaking anxiety
So are you in agreement; is public speaking like acting? Well the fear and the nerves and anxiety that happen in preparation for and during public speaking are two different things all together.
The fear, in my opinion can only be overcome by putting yourself out there. Agreeing to a set date and event, where you can start to plan and prepare.
Nerves and anxiety come during the later stages of preparation and often in the moments before standing in front of an audience.
This is often linked to wondering if your content is relevant, that the audience will enjoy it and be engaged. Also the natural nervous energy that comes with standing in front of your peers.
Being scared of jumping off a cliff is not the same as standing at the end of the cliff wondering if you’ve packed your parachute correctly. Don’t leave anything to chance and know when you enter that stage that you’ve done all the preparation you can have to make this as enjoyable and as informative as you possibly can.
Public speaking tips
- Confidence is built on experience
- Know your audience
- Research, Plan and Prepare
- Learn your lines – Embody your story
- Believe in yourself and the story you have to tell – It is unique!
- Just do it…
If everybody is looking at their phones during your presentation and you’re wondering if they are really interested; assume they are and keep the energy high.
After your done, check the hashtags used or the relevant handles across social and if there’s lots of comments and shares, you did well and the audience used their mobiles for good the good of social sharing.
If however you can’t find anything on social; you potentially bored the hell out of them and possibly need to reconsider your content and/or delivery!
But seriously, don’t believe the hype. Most of the people who look really comfortable on stage have read those lines more than a few times and yes, they still will get a little nervous. If they don’t; they are either too arrogant to care or have said the lines so often that they’ve lost the meaning completely.
My nerves are the single thing that keep me in the moment and alive. The day I lose the heavy shot of adrenaline through my veins before I stand in front of an audience is the day I question whether the audience has heard my story once too many times before.
Is public speaking like acting? You tell me…