Are You Acting Like A Presenter?

Don't Scare Your Audience, But Do Use Acting To Capture Their Imagination
Don’t Scare Your Audience, But Do Use Acting To Capture Their Imagination

When you are asked to deliver a presentation, one way of looking at this request is that you are actually being asked to put on a one-person show. No matter if you are presenting at a college graduation or are simply reviewing last quarter’s sales figures, you are an actor who is there to put on a show for your audience. Do you know how to act?

Ed Brodow is a professional speaker who has also spent 12 years as a Hollywood actor. Needless to say, he know his stuff. He points out that the actors that we like to watch on the big screen or on TV were not born that way. They’ve studied their craft and that’s how they have become so good.

Brodow has worked with a number of acting coaches and he’s discovered the acting skills that speakers need to incorporate into our presentations in order to make them more memorable. No, you’re probably not going to win any Academy Awards for you next presentation; however, you might just do a better job of connecting with your audience.

Learn To Improvise: If you’ve delivered your presentation before or if you’ve spent the last month preparing for this presentation, then there is a chance that you are going to come across as “wooden” or “scripted”. Having the ability to improvise, or make it up as you go along, is the key to making your presentation fresh and making the audience feel as though you make it up just for them.

Stories That Are Personal: We’ve talked about this before, but what makes any presentation memoriable are your stories. Brodow reveals that the way an actor prepares for a scene with powerful emotions is to think back over their life and find a situation in which they were experiencing those emotions. They then substitute the scene that they are playing for their remembered scene and that’s how they are able to convey such powerful emotions.

When you are presenting, don’t just TELL a story. Instead, FEEL a story as you tell it. You audience will pick up on this and your stories will come alive for them.

What’s Your Drive?: This is one of my biggest complaints about so many presentations that I’ve sat though – the speaker didn’t have a point to make. When  you present you need to have a single point – what are you advocating that the audience should do after you are done? How are you hoping to change them? If you don’t have this, then you are just delivering a book report. Pick your position and then tell you audience why it’s the right positon for them also.

Be An Actor: Look, real life is rather boring – we see / live it every day. When you are presenting, you need to step-it-up-a-notch. You need to throw some drama into your words. You need to make your audience laugh. You need to stop being yourself and become an actor playing a role. Become larger than life and you will be able to put on a heck of a show for your audience.

Manage Your Energy: You are leading the show and so you need to be operating at a high level of energy. However, you also need to match you audience’s energy level – if they are to low (like if you were talking to bankers these days) and you are too high, then you’ll never connect to them. Instead, you need to sense their energy level and then start your presentation at an energy level that is just a bit higher then theirs. This way you’ll connect with them and they’ll follow you to whatever energy level you want to take them to.

There you go – this is a start. Anyone can stand before a group of people and deliver a boring presentation. In order to deliver a great presentation that will have an impact and will be memorable you need to become an actor!

When you’ve given a presentation in the past, have you ever had to improvise? Do you tell stories as a part of your presentations and do you take the extra time to personalize them? How do you become “larger than life” when you are giving a presentation? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

6 thoughts on “Are You Acting Like A Presenter?”

  1. Hi Jim

    There’s lots of good advice here – but I disagree with your point “Stop being yourself and become an actor playing a role.” I don’t think that works for presentations – people want a sense of authenticity from their speakers. If you’re acting you’re likely to come across as artificial. Actors have many years training to make their acting look natural. Not so presenters. I would recommend – be yourself – like you might be when you’re having a good time with friends or family – and then amplify it a notch for your audience.


  2. Olivia: good point – perhaps I was not clear enough. I hear where you are coming from – your audience has shown up to hear YOU speak, not to have you pretend to be a bunch of different people. However, my point was that if you remain yourself (as enjoyable as you may be) during the entire presentation, then perhaps you’ve missed a real opportunity.

    Playing the role of a customer, a leader, or a competitor allows you to “step outside of yourself” for a bit and provides an opportunity to introduce some thoughts / ideas that perhaps would not have as much impact if they came from you as opposed to your “character”.

    This is a scary, powerful tool. I think that if you look for ways to use it correctly then you can still “be true to yourself” AND use a powerful new communication tool. What do you think?

    • “Acting” gets a bad rap sometimes. The best actors ARE authentic.

      They do not make someone up – they just access a facet of themselves that is appropriate and consistent with the role. The same is true for aligning your role as a presenter with the room you are presenting to….big room, small room, bankers, children…to connect with them successfully requires showing a different part of yourself (though one could argue about similarities with the bankers/children thing)

      • Cindy: you bring up a really good point about matching your presentation (w/acting) to the audience that you are addressing. The amount of acting that you do should increase as the size of your audience grows – smaller groups require you to be more “genuine”. Man, so many things to take into account when you are giving a speech!


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