Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills

*Smart speakers know the PRIMITIVE DYNAMIC of the voice: the music your instrument can create to move an audience



Lyn Darnley Photo © RSC / Ellie KurttzSponsored Links Shakespeare Theater Tony Award-Winning Festival in OR. 

Lyn Darnley is Head of Text, Voice and Artist Development at the RSC, and initially worked in the theater as an actor and as a broadcaster and television presenter.  

Smart communicators aren’t afraid of iambic pentameter because they know the primitive dynamic of voice. 

What does that mean?  It means really good speakers realize that their voice has levels, and movement much like music.  And can affect an audience in the same way music can. 

Exceptional speakers know that the voice is an instrument that needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.

Here is an excerpt from one of the most respected vocal coaches in the world.  There is much to learn.

“We go into rehearsals and work as part of the creative team supporting the director and actors by allowing them to explore these physical and aural dynamics of language. I think that language is becoming very cerebral and we are now separating ourselves from its primitive dynamic. Today, we tend to ask “what does that word mean?” rather than “what does that word do to us when we speak or hear it?”

The power of the spoken word is something that goes back to the Greeks and Romans in an age before technology. The most powerful thing is the spoken word. So my work is about going back and looking at the real visceral energy of language and what its prime purpose is. And that requires a fair amount of dexterity and physical technique because we’re much less engaged with language now. Speech is less engaged. We don’t speak with the same muscularity, energy or dynamic like people did before there was a visual back up for communication.

 Spoken language is primarily a vibration capable of physically impacting upon us in the same way music does.

So, Shakespeare’s language conveys much more than its literal meaning because it’s layered with sound, dynamic, explosion – language is actually very violent.

The sound and rhythm of Shakespeare’s language helps create his characters. You can physically feel it when consonants collide or when vowels are open, long, short or squeezed.

The English language is naturally full of rhythm, full of stressed and unstressed sounds. Iambic pentameter is simply an unstressed sound followed by a stressed one repeated five times. It’s very close to the natural rhythm of the English language, so it works very well. Ten beats coincides nicely with the length of a thought. But Shakespeare becomes really exciting when you break that iambic pentameter rhythm. The energy in performance comes from when you go against the iambic. You don’t need to study iambic pentameter – you just need to feel it, which will come naturally from speaking and listening to the text.

I think that the most important thing is to speak Shakespeare, not read it. This is because you need to get it into your body. The words need to affect you through the sound and through the muscular activity in the mouth. The words can’t do that on the page!”

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking coach and professional acting coach as well as a professional actress and director.


July 23, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*Ralph Fiennes – acting secret Speakers can use


Ralph Fiennes Photo


In an Actors Studio interview, Ralph Fiennes said that in his audition for RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London)  he was told not to make it happen but to let it happen.  And that that advice changed his work.

It’s a constant hue and cry not only in my Acting Classes, but with my speaking clients as well. 

And here are many ways of saying it, so it might sink in.  Because when I first heard “get out of your own way”, “leave yourself alone” at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, I didn’t get it.  I was like most beginning actors and a lot of speakers trying too hard to be my idea of the perfect actor/speaker – BOOORING!

What does this have to do with being an extraordinary speaker?  Everything!  The connection actors have to their material, to their audience and to their authenticity is compelling.  Don’t you want your presentation to be the same?  You need to change your focus then.

What does it really mean – to let it happen? How do you go about learning to do this?

Let it happen. Don’t make it happen.

1)  Your attention has to be on the audience .

2) You have to completely give yourself over to failing and making a fool of yourself (or so you think – really it just communicates your humanity and makes you an interesting presenter.  After all do you want to like everyone else and forgettable or you and memorable?).  GIVE UP ON PERFECTION.

3) You really have to STOP directing yourself, anticipating your next move, judging how fully emotional, present and authentic you are, comparing this presentation to the the last one etc.  YOU NEED TO BE PRESENT

4) TRUST, trust, trust yourself and your instincts, no matter how “wrong” they seem in your mind.  Your judgemental mind doesn’t belong in the speech.  LET GO

5)  Remember it’s not about you – it’s about the story, the gift you are giving, the audience you are giving it to.

Here’s one of my favorite stories and I remind all my actors and all my speaking clients, on a regular basis that this is their purpose.  IT IS ABOUT THE MESSAGE!


From The Invisible Actor by Yoshi Oida

In the Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought: “Oh, his movement is so beautiful!” They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed.

Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simple saw the moon. I prefer this kind of actor: the one who shows the moon to the audience.”

 Barbara Kite is an executive speaking and professional acting coach, director and actress in Portland Oregon.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | 1, acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 1 Comment

*THE Secret to success – it’s easy

You can have a whole community involved in your dream.

You can be a leader, you can inspire others, you can give joy, you can have fun. 

It’s simple.  You need to dare to be foolish, to be authentic, to love the music in you and dance, dance, dance.

Dance to your own music – the one in your heart, your soul and you will inevitably inspire others to join you.  It’s a fact.  The secret is to let go.  Can’t let go?  Join an Acting Class, a Dance Class, a Movement Class…



Barbara Kite is an Executive Speaking & Professional Acting Coach, actress and director who resides in Portland Oregon

July 8, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 1 Comment

*BECOME a better speaker – do what actors do

Take an acting class!

Take a singing class!

Take an improvisation class!

Take a jazz dance class!

or a movement class!

I guarantee all or any of the above will make a difference and you will get better and better at what you do.

Just sit in first and listen to your insticts about trusting the instructor and get references.

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking and professional acting coach, director and actress in Portland Oregon.

July 4, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, Public Speaking | 1 Comment

*FOR SPEAKERS – Phillip Seymour Hoffman on Acting


Listen to a great actor talk about his craft and ask yourself what you can take away from it as a performer youself?

“In my mid-20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!”  You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle.

Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”


“On every film, you’ll have nights where you wake up at 2 in the morning and think, I’m awful in this,” he recalled. “You see how delicate it is — a little movement to the right or the left, and you’re hopelessly hokey.”

 MERLY STREEP on Hoffman

 “I remember seeing Philip in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley.  He played a rich, spoiled snob, and I sat up straight in my seat and said, ‘Who is that?’ I thought to myself: My God, this actor is fearless. He’s done what we all strive for — he’s given this awful character the respect he deserves, and he’s made him fascinating.”

 New York Times  By LYNN HIRSCHBERG   Published: December 19, 2008

 Hoffman on Hoffman

 “You have to bring in vulnerability and privacy that normal people run screaming from.  I think that for most people, it’s one of their worst fears. 

 If you’re an actor and it’s something you want to do well, you are confronting that fear honestly. 

I don’t think actors are different from other people.  I think, they still have that fear, but they know they have a need to create something and do something with it.  But to get past that moment, you are dealing with something – to me it’s quite primal – because you could get up there and not be vulnerable and not be private and be pretty bad because you get up there and protect the shit out of yourself. 

Even when I was young I think I felt this.  I knew I had to start this play, and I knew I had to start it with a certain energy.  And I knew that would take something of me that I wasn’t kosher with.  I didn’t like it, that that was gong to be asked of me and that I was going to have to do it, the possible humiliation of it.”

 Actors At Work  by Rosemary Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan

 Barbara Kite is an executive speaking and professional acting coach, director and actress in Portland Oregon.

July 2, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment