Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills

*PRSA Conference a success

I had a terrific time – great people and nice feed back (even though it happened to be about digital communication).

Just a reminder that if you feel you have something important to offer and go for it, the returns are there.

 Verbatim comments from speaker evaluation forms

 Topic relevance…not so much digital, but always relevant.

Presentation too short. I wanted to hear more.

 This seminar alone was worth the entire day. Excellent!

 Barbara Kite knows how to fire up a crowd. She proves that no matter what technology you’re using, there’s no replacing the human factor.


May 30, 2009 Posted by | fear of speaking, presentations | Leave a comment

*FAINTING follow up – reivew

Review of an exercise – Fainting in Berghdorf’s

From a young actress –

“So  I did it, I fainted at Bergdorf’s.  I got up and took a shower, brushed my teeth and hair, put on a respectable outfit. 

I took the bus and the whole way I was squirming in discomfort.  Once there I spent an hour and a half perusing ladies lingerie and the shoe department, I did not want to do this.  $100 later I realized it was now or never and made my way to another department .   I was certain that I would be suspected.  I kept reminding myself that I was a grown woman, that I had the right to faint where I damn well pleased.  There were people everywhere! I picked a spot.  I hated this.  It felt like climbing up the high dive platform, while the whole way your guts are churning to water, and no turning back.  I knew that to pull it off I had to believe myself that I was fainting.  I thought about what it feels like to have your vision tunnel, and then I induced a wave of nausea, vertigo.  I made a commitment and sank slowly down to the floor.

Immediately a man rushed to my side as I was coming to and I said “I shouldn’t have missed breakfast this morning”.  He insisted on helping me to my feet and sitting me down and offered to get me water. I thanked him and he left to get it.  The other sales people were giving me plenty of space and asking if I was alright.  When he returned I sipped the offered water and again thanked him and apologized for taking their time. 

After a few minutes I started to feel like I should get out of there, so I gathered my belongings  and said that I thought I had better go and get myself something to eat.  Then I left.

 Wow!  What the hell just happened?  I was buzzing.  I felt guilty at first, “I can’t believe I willingly deceived someone and wasted his time.  I’m a terrible person, how could I do that?”  Then I started to realize that as far as the entire rest of the world was concerned I actually HAD fainted in Bergdorf’s that morning. The whole thing took all of about ten minutes and it was exciting, even fun.  It felt good to be taken care of like that, to be made much of .  This man and I had a genuine and personal interaction in which I was seen and vulnerable, and I invited it.  The exercise reminded me of how I was as a child, fearless, imaginative, in control.  My initial fear was all the voices in my head that tell me how to be an appropriate adult.  What I did was not a prank, or an attempt to make someone else look stupid, it was an exercise for me.  It was scary, then empowering, and I’m glad I did it.  Thanks Barbara!”

May 25, 2009 Posted by | fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*606 attempts to make this work

It took 606 attempts to make this work.  How many attempts are in you to make it work?  And do you know that there is going to be that one that does work?  There is!

Oh, by the way, this is not digitally enhanced.  It’s done the old fashioned way, one bump at a time.

May 23, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 1 Comment

*SENSE MEMORY (making stories vivid and memorable)

An important acting tool and an essential story telling tool is SENSE MEMORY.

Do you realize that every feeling we have  comes from our sensorial interaction with the world around us? 

What if you have a wonderful story to tell (and I’ll get to story writing in another blog)?  One that supports (and it must) your message  –  something people will walk away remembering for a long time.  Because, as you know,  you remember images and feelings more than facts and power points.  How do you make sure your audience remembers your story?

You have to make sure they see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, hear it.  That means you have to before you speak. 

I tell my clients –  actors and public speakers, “If you see it they will too”.  It’s a given. 

If you see, smell, taste, touch and hear the elements of  your story, you will react to them honestly and your audience will go along for the ride.

So here’s the sense memory exercise.  If you can, get together with a few people and have one person read it out loud as you go along.

 Simply stated, “sense memory” is the remembering by the five senses of the sensory impressions experienced by the individual organism in everyday life. 

  THE EXERCISE:  Begin with a coffee cup as your first exercise. 


Find a simple coffee cup at home, fill it with coffee or your favorite morning drink, and explore every sensory aspect of the cup in minute detail. Let your mind ask the questions, and your senses provide the answers.


 1) First, get in a chair and do some relaxation exercise. Stretching, tensing, relaxing, etc.

 2) When you are relaxed explore the cup with the sense of sight:  DON’T TOUCH THE CUP – how tall is the cup? what is the diameter of the cup?   what color is the cup?  of what material is the cup made?  are reflections from  the lights in the room visible on the cup (where, what color?)?  when do I first see the coffee inside the cup as I approach the cup to look in?  are there flaws in the cup (what kind, what size?)?


4) Repeat this process for each of touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing so that you should be able to ask the same questions and get the same answers when you no longer have the cup to refer to. 

Notice what muscles you use to move your hand towards the cup.

NOTICE HOW EACH SENSE SUPPORTS THE PREVIOUS ONE. While you are moving towards tasting the drink, sight, smell and touch may come into play and you cannot ignore them.

In other words, as you pick up the cup to your mouth, realize that touch and sight are involved and record them.

 That’s the “art” of acting.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 3 Comments

*BREATH (from Mark Westbrook’s Blog)


From our first breath to our last,  breathing is an instrinsic part of that each and every part of our lives.  The breath is both instinctive and expressive, it is a vital part of our physical functioning as a human being, but it is also an essential part of our emotive capacity to express ourselves.

There are two types of breath, the inhale and the exhale, the in-breath and the out-breath.   Breathing in prepares us, it fills us with the oxygen vital to thought and to fight or flight survival.  The outbreath is how we communicate, it is the expressive breath.  We ‘inspire’ on the in-breath and we ‘express’ on the out.

In times of stress or pressure, when we exert, many times, we hold our breath.  Yet it requires a natural and relaxed breathing cycle for the actor to both inspire and express themselves, we have to learn to breathe thorugh toughest experiences.

When we breathe in, the 3-dimensional barrel of our breathing apparatus should become fully inflated, whilst remaining free from tension.  Likewise, when we release the breath and all the air to travel out of us, we should allow the deflation to be entirely unimpeded.   It is common for many beginning actors to have not considered their breathing when they begin taking classes.  Many people think the belly button should be sucked in with the in-breath and pushed outwards with the out-breath.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  On the in-breath the barrel inflates, on the out-breath the barrel deflates.  This process should be a cycle and not feel like two separate oppositional forces.  The breath is an endless circle of in and out, inspire and express.

Breath is expression, breath is spirit, when we breathe no more, we live no more.  It is ever present in our living existence, but we take it for granted.  Each and every actor, no matter their level or experience should take the time to learn more about the ‘breath of life’.   Breath is one of the few outlets for the actor’s inner expressiveness and feelings, without deeper knowledge, experience and exploration of the part it plays in acting, the actor is missing something vital.

Breath is projection, breath is tension, breath is relaxation, breath is articulation of thought and feeling, breath is  inspiration and expression.

Mark Westbrook is a Professional Acting Coach and runs Acting Coach Scotland, a private acting studio offering classes, masterclasses, workshops and audition coaching for actors at all levels. His acting studio is based in Glasgow, Scotland, although he teaches all across the United Kingdom.

May 16, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*IT IS not the critic that counts

It is not the critic that counts.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

                                                                                                                                 ~Teddy Roosevelt

May 14, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*TONGUE Twisters for Actors (and Speakers)


Good speech is an essential part of being a good actor.  Exercising your mouth with difficult tongue twisters keeps your mouth fit for purpose.

Here are TEN new tongue twisters to work on at home.  Do each tongue twister EIGHT times, getting quicker with each recitation.

  1. Mommala Poppala Mommala Poppala
  2. Peggy Babcock
  3. I carried the married character over the barrier
  4. Honorificabilitudinatibus (From Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost)
  5. A regal rural ruler
  6. Green glass grass gleams
  7. A proper pot of coffee in a proper pot of coffee pot
  8. You Know New York, You Need New York, You Know You Need Unique New York (This was hard just to type out)
  9. Wrist Watch Wrist Watch
  10. Get Grandma Great Greek Grapes

Practice! Practice! Practice!


May 14, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 2 Comments

**FREE (Portland) Presentation on Acting Skills for Speakers

 2 hour presentation
friday, JUNE 12 – 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
at 3294 SE Hawthorne, Portland. 
Please make reservations.
We’ll be discussing the similarity between acting and presenting covering preparation, authenticity, heightened reality and great story telling skills.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*CAPTURING the audience

As an acting coach, in every class I make sure every person gets up and works, sometimes with one other, sometimes by themselves, sometimes with the whole class, but always in front of an audience, always needing that connection.

I believe learning happens not just with the words.  As a matter of fact, I believe it happens the least with words.  Sensorialy and kinestetically we retain so much more and on a deeper level.  Telling me about skiing is just not the same as having me do it, see, smell, taste, touch, hear and move in the experience of it all.

I have always known that speaking is like performing – you need to give the audience an experience.  That requires authenticity, heightened energy, great story telling skills, among other technical needs.  

I also know that actively involving your audience in a task will given them an even deeper way to experience your message.  And if that’s not possible due to the nature of your information, then a vivid story with SENSE MEMORY details will certainly leave them remembering what you had to offer. In other words SEE it before you say it.

SENSE MEMORY – an acting exercise coming soon to this blog.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment


I forgot how much I enjoy doing a presentation.

I had the best time on Wednesday with the Public Relations Society of America. 

Just to pass on some highlights – I talked bout the similarity between public speaking and acting- and I want to make some comments on what I observed and learned.

I noticed people using microphones when they didn’t need to and improperly at that – too close to their mouths and poping their P’s.

And Power Point. I can’t believe it’s still being used and in such volumes. Listening to the speaker and reading the power points just put me off, so I left. The secret to power points is less is more. I worked with a speaker from Intel and she was going overseas to do an important presentation on a new product and had to preview it for her department before she went. 23 power points had her by the throat until I told her to forget them and write the speech she wanted and then pick 5 to support it. A sigh of relief and work that ended in clarity was the result.

I also watched a speaker rattle off important information with no attention paid to voice, or contact to audience. Everyone was writing down everything on the screen and also trying to write down what was said. What’s the point? Why not just read it in a book or on line and ask questions on line. Why the need to have an actual speaker there? And what will be remembered? All that writing I guess. But do you check all your notes? Well someone asked if they could get the information on line and yes they could so the writing stopped. But the cell phone texting began. I know when I’ve made notes in the past I was writing as quickly as I could and not paying attention and when re-reading my notes at a later date, I only understood about half of them.

No stories where told to help people remember the theme or a particular point. I know some of it was technical. After all it was about digital communication. Still, a word, an anecdote, a gesture, a moment that the audience could have taken away to remember the most important part or parts of what they learned would have helped and broken up the monotony.

A lot of learning happened and I’m glad I can remember some of it. If I wanted more, I guess I could have bought the books on sale.

I was, however, gratified to find that audience members for – Powerful Communication Using Acting Skills – came up to tell me they received a lot of information they could use. I made certain that if they were writing something down, I stopped and kept up with them. I made certain that if they were writing something down, I stopped and kept up with them.  I made certain that eye communication was happening at all times.  I made certain that I was listening.  I made sure that I was painting striking pictures to take away and think about and use to create a  new way of communicating for each of them.   I made sure I was present, present, present. After all it is all about the audience.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment