For people with a fear of or inexperience with public speaking, a professional presentation can feel like an impossible obstacle. If you have trouble putting together a cohesive sentence in front of an audience, look to actors for inspiration. By using tried-and-true theatrical tips to minimize nerves and increase clarity, you can improve your acting skills before your next presentation.
A professional presentation and a theatrical performance are strikingly similar. Both situations involve telling a story and capturing the attention of an audience, often in a high-stress environment. Like professionals faced with an important speech, actors often get nervous before a performance, and many worry about forgetting their lines. Whether it's a businessman delivering a professional presentation or a star actor filming a crucial scene, failure is not an option.
Preparation is the most important thing an actor does before a performance; he memorizes lines until he can say them in his sleep. He creates a back story for the character that informs each move. When something goes wrong, this preparation enables him to think on his feet and improvise a new line. The same goes for a professional presentation. When you know your subject material inside and out, you can speak from memory rather than relying on your notes. Unexpected problems such as a projector malfunction or lost notes won't leave you stammering at the front of the room. What's more, you'll be able to end the presentation on a strong, confident note and answer questions quickly and thoughtfully. For both actors and presenters, preparation is the most reliable predictor of success.
Create a Character
People with a fear of public speaking often fear the judgement of their colleagues. Give yourself the freedom to step away from your fears by emulating actors and giving the presentation in character. Create an alter ego for yourself; you might choose a confident and capable business professional who loves public speaking or a successful entrepreneur who captures everyone with her sparkling wit. Give your character a name. The singer Beyonce, for example, embodied a feisty alter ego named Sasha Fierce during the early part of her career to boost onstage confidence. Before you step into the room, muster your acting skills, assume your alter ego and give the presentation from the character's point of view.
Deal With Nerves
During a professional presentation, nerves can make your voice shake and your brain struggle to process information. You may get flustered easily if you lose your place or skip past a slide. Minimize your nerves with common acting techniques. Breathe deeply before you head into the room, and jump up and down a few times to release any nervous energy. Take a moment to shift to an external focus by thinking about the company, the overall goal of the presentation and the needs of the people in the room. Most importantly, remind yourself to enjoy the process.
By borrowing from the theater, you can learn to deliver clearer and more engaging presentations. In the end, preparing adequately and mastering your nerves transforms a professional presentation from a chore to a joy.
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