Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills

*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 »

  1. Beautiful, and very true. I have recently begun struggling with “getting out of my own way.” It is very easy to start using my “speaker’s voice” when I present, and I hate the results. I feel plastic, and the audience doesn’t react as well.

    It’s the hallmark of the truly accomplished speaker/presenter who can simply “show the moon.” I aspire to be one of these.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep working on this.

    Comment by Todd | July 19, 2009 | Reply

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