Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills

Their ACTOR’S CRAFT – What Speakers need to know.

In an Actors’ Studio interview, Ralph Fiennes said that in his audition for RADA he was told not to make it happen but to let it happen. And that that advice changed his work.

  • 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.

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

LET IT HAPPEN. Don’t make it happen.

  • All your attention has to be on the person/audience you are speaking to – totally. Making eye communication – not eye contact – is what matters here. That means listening to what you are getting from your partner/audience and adjusting accordingly.
  • You have to give yourself over to revealing yourself (it communicates your humanity and what you and the audience have in common).

GIVE UP ON PERFECTION – It is the enemy of great.

  • You really have to STOP directing yourself. You need to stop anticipating, judging, watching, and comparing.

And it can’t be stressed enough. YOU NEED TO BE VERY PRESENT – much more than you are in every day life. Ask any actor or athlete. If they wander for a second from the “scene” or the “ball” and what is happening around them, they miss a beat and the audience, fellow players/actors know and everything is way off.

  • TRUST, trust, trust yourself and your instincts, no matter how “wrong” they seem in your mind. Your judgmental mind doesn’t belong in the scene. Your intuition, heart and instincts belong there. Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris” laughs when his father dies. It makes complete sense when you see it. TRUST.
  • AND MOST IMPORTANT – Remember it’s not about you – it’s about the story, the gift you are giving, the audience you are giving it to.

Frank Langella, Theatre and Film Star

“I do what works. I believe that acting is a wilderness and that just as you reach a clearing, feeling safe and secure, it’s time to march back into the wilderness. I subscribe to no method, no school, no approach. Providing an actor can speak, move, read English, and memorize, the rest is up for grabs.

There are, of course, certain basics. You must own your lines as you own your own toes. You must know what they mean and you must mean them when you say them. But, that done, the mystery of acting will remain your lifetime companion.

I have learned most from audiences, too often ignored by actors, as if somehow doing it for them is contrary to the truth of their art. Audiences have to hear you, they have to understand you, and they must be moved to laughter or tears by what you do. It is their comfort actors must consider – their pleasure. Actors send life across the footlights and audiences send back the reward.

It is, of course, not as simple as all that. If it were, anyone could do it, and anyone can’t. You need breath, stamina, skill and talent. The first three you can acquire, the latter you can’t. If you are blessed with talent, respect it and cherish it.

Young actors should, early on, rid themselves of the notion that there is a “right” way to act. There is only what works and, in order to come close to what works each night, an actor cannot burden himself with anything that does not result in the truth of the moment, and in the communication of that truth to his audience.

There is much to learn from the investigation of all theories, all styles of acting, and all approaches. But after he absorbs all he needs, the actor must be ready to forget it. He must take a deep breath, call upon his stamina and skill, trust in his talent and go out there and be.

All else is a wilderness in which the actor must happily wander.”


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.”

Your audience wants to see the moon, the message, the experience, not you.

* * *

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

February 18, 2012 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*Fixes for anxiety

(information primarily gathered from Great Speaking Ezine with additions and edits from me)

My very favorite is turning it into excitement.  After all both feel the same.  I just replace “I’m scared” with “I’m excited” when the feeling comes up and inevitably other sentences supporting my “excitement” follow.  And in minutes I have myself on the road to excitement.

But not everyone reacts the same and there is no universal fix. Don’t try to use all these fixes at once. Pick out items from this list and try them out until you find the right combination for you.

Visualization strategies that can be used anytime

  • Concentrate on how good you are at public speaking.
  • Pretend you are just chatting with a group of friends.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the audience listening, laughing, and applauding.
  • Remember happy moments from your past.
  • Think about your love for and desire to help the audience.
  • Picture the audience in their underwear.

Strategies in advance of program

  • Be extremely well prepared.
  • Find a  acting class.
  • Get individual or group public speaking coaching.
  • Listen to music.
  • Read a poem.
  • Anticipate hard and easy questions.
  • Organize your speaking notes.
  • Absolutely memorize your opening statement so you can recite it on autopilot if you have to.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Especially practice bits so you can spit out a few minutes of your program no matter how nervous you are.
  • Get in shape. I don’t know why it helps stage fright, but it does.

Strategies just before the program Remember Stage fright usually goes away after you start. The tricky time is before you start.

  • Be in the room at least an hour early if possible to triple check the public address system and everything else on your checklist. You can also schmooze with participants arriving early.
  • Notice and think about things around you to be present.
  • Concentrate on searching for current and immediate things that are happening at the event that you can mention during your speech (especially in the opening).
  • Get into conversation with people near you. Be very intent on what they are saying.
  • Yawn to relax your throat.
  • Doodle.
  • Draw sketches of a new car you would like to have.
  • Look at your notes.
  • Put pictures of your kids/grandkids, dog, etc., in your notes.
  • Build a cushion of time in the day so you are not rushed, but not too much time. You don’t want to have extra time to worry.
  • If your legs are trembling, lean on a table, sit down, or shift your legs.
  • Take a quick walk.
  • Take quick drinks of tepid water.
  • Double check your A/V equipment including the public address system, projectors, etc..
  • Don’t drink alcohol or coffee or tea with caffeine.
  • Concentrate on your speaking ideas and how they will benefit the listeners.
  • Concentrate on your audience.
  • Listen to music.
  • Read a poem.
  • Do isometrics that tighten and release muscles.
  • Shake hands and smile with attendees before the program.
  • Go somewhere private and warm up your voice, muscles, etc.
  • Use eye communication.
  • Go to a mirror and check out how you look.
  • Breathe deeply with your diaphragm, evenly, and slowly for several minutes.
  • Don’t eat if you don’t want to and never take tranquilizers or other such drugs. You may think you will do better, but you will probably do worse and not know it.
  • Open your arms wide, in private, and imagine your eneregry filling the room and covering every listener.  Imagine radiation sunshine from your chest, fingers, etc.

Strategies when the program begins

  • If  legs are trembling, lean on lectern /table or shift legs or move
  • Try not to hold the microphone by hand in the first minute.
  • Don’t hold notes. The audience can see them shake. Use three-by-five cards instead.
  • Take quick drinks of tepid water.
  • Use eye contact. It will make you feel less isolated.
  • Look at the friendliest faces in the audience.
  • Joke about your nervousness. What’s the right wine to go with fingernails?

Remember nervousness doesn’t show one-tenth as much as it feels. Before each speaking engagement make a short list of the items you think will make you feel better. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations. You never know which ones will work best until you try. Rewrite them on a separate sheet and keep the sheet with you at all times so you can refer to it quickly when the need arises.

When speaking in public use these steps to control stage fright so it doesn’t control you.

Barbara Kite is a professional Acting Coach and Executive Speaking Coach as well as Keynot Speaker in Portland Oregon.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 2 Comments

Summary of “What valuable piece of advice (looking back) would you pass on to the younger members of the groups?”

125 people replied to the question posted on linkedin

 “What valuable piece of advice (looking back) would you pass on to the younger members of the groups?   Patience would be mine.”

As promised I have done my very best to summarize and put it all in my blog

because someone said:

Within a forum like this, it is equivalent to having a knowledge base at your finger tips, in a “cliff notes” form. We all benefit from the thinking of many which may help clarify our own thoughts, bring new insight to us, and give us an opportunity to learn tools and techniques of others to benefit our business and performance.

What we have available here you can’t pay for, the words and wisdom of many all with the same interests. This is powerful.”


This is a truism I can testify to from more than three decades as a professional speaker: you are in the marketing business. If that works out, your reward is the privilege of speaking in front of audiences all over the world.

You must be willing to spend at least a few hours a day calling, writing, and connecting with potential clients (and communicating with previous clients.) The business of the speaking business is as vital to your on-going success as developing “your voice” and refining your skills in the “art of speaking.”

You should spend 50% of your time marketing–EVEN when you’re booked solid!

 Keep your eyes open to new opportunities and be willing to let go of old patterns of behavior and thinking. Be willing to try new ideas.

What is your mission? Define your goals. And remember Integrity and Tenacity.


The personal is powerful.

Be authentic. The audience really connects to you when you are authentic and committed to them and their needs.

Being authentic brings an emotional connection that bonds you and your listeners.

I agree with the authenticity comments but you must be a true professional who an audience can respect as someone with exceptional platform skills while at the same time being so down to earth that they feel they can relate to you. They may be motivated temporarily by a slick canned message, but the lasting impact will come from the person who they feel truly “gets” where they are and has possibly even been there too. Hours of preparation for each individual audience, makes this appear “natural” and makes a speech become a conversation with each person in their own mind.

 Engage your audience with a story or example to which they will personally relate. It will draw them in and keep them interested.

Audiences respond to emotion. You can intrigue them with statistics and logic…but you can only MOVE them with emotions.

You are only as good as your stories. Develop your stories and learn to tell them. Listen to great storytellers and develop an understanding of why you like them as storytellers. Learn by doing.

Learn how to interact with your audience, make eye contact, improvise, and go off on tangents as appropriate. 

Never speak AT an audience. : converse with your audience; invite reactions, even if the audience is too big to be able to allow people to speak

LISTENING, and much more:

Practice extreme listening.

Validate the questioner when a question is asked.

When others see you take the risk for the right reasons, it provides support and “permission” for them to take the risk with you.

Always start preparations by asking, how can I serve this audience?

Approach each presentation as if for the first time.

 Focus, focus and focus again.

Live in the Moment and Be in the Moment.

Enunciate clearly Collaborate!

You learn much quicker and have way more fun working together with like-minded people. I wish someone had told me that sooner.

Remember that everyone you meet is your client: the drive through clerk at the fast food restaurant, your bellman at the hotel, the janitor at the convention center. Everyone is your client

“Whether you think can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  HenryFord.

Barbara Kite is an Executive Speaking Coach, a Professional Acting Coach and a keynote  speaker who resides in Portland, Oregon

January 21, 2010 Posted by | fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment


Vocal Work is so neglected with speakers and so important and makes such a huge difference when the voice is trained and used properly.  So appealing,  So attractive.  So soothing.  So entrancing.  But most speakers think THEY DON’T NEED VOCAL WORK.  THEY ARE SO WRONG.

I am currently a third of the way through a 18 week course in Vocal Work  for Actors (not singing – speaking) and it is amazing.   I am reminded of the huge importance of the speaking voice and  I have been reflecting on how many of my clients need this kind of work.

Y0u want people to be attracted to your voice so they will listen to what you have to say.  And I find so many speakers with shrill voices teaching speakers to speak but I never hear of them teaching vocal work.  There are so few good teachers in that area.  We happen to be very lucky in Portland Oregon where Devon Allen who was taught by Ceciley Berry of the Royal Shakespeare Company and has years of experience teaching and using these methods in her work as a director and actress.  She taught workshops in New  York to lawyers, improving their vocal quality, as well as actors in Londong and New York.

Breathing and daily exercising the diaphragm and speaking on the breath and  ennunciating using all the muscles, in your face and so much more, are part of our work.

What a difference it makes to speak with diaphgramatic support instead of  from the upper chest where it is shallow and quite and thin.  The difference of unpleasant and appealing. 

I’ll be sending information in the next couple of months about a very special workshop just for public speakers.

For the time being let’s hear about your vocal challenges and maybe they can be addressed in this blog.

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

November 7, 2009 Posted by | presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*Great Speakers and Acting Skills Workshop Portland Oregon Nov 6, 2009







Speakers with Authenticity and Acting Skills always have the EDGE.

  SPEAKING   is like a  performance –   

                      you need heightened energy,


                                                      and   great story telling skills


 I challenge you to try something distinctly NEW and more fully embrace untapped areas of your IMAGINATION, creativity, authenticity and power through COMMUNICATION coaching (media/public speaking/ presentation) BY AN EXPERT(30 yrs of training and experience) IN HER FIELD WHO GUARANTEES RESULTS.After over 30  years of experience teaching acting, I have learned a truth -you are far more creative, COURAGEOUS and capable than you can possibly imagine, and I can prove  503-423-7437













FRIDAY, November 6, 2009



10 am to 4 pm (1/2 hr break)











 (see for more information)






September 7, 2009



 You can learn a lot about the fine art of public speaking from Barbara Kite.


In doing my LinkedIn research on the topic, I came across Barbara’s website and blog. Her blending of acting techniques into the coaching mix is a piece that I found intriguing.


I walked away from our initial telephone conversation with some practical tips that I could apply immediately to my keynote preparation.      


  She is a highly skilled orator and well-studied thespian with keen insight into the process of engaging an audience.       I recommend Barbara to anyone wishing to take their public speaking and their communication in general to the next level.”

J.D. Gershbein


Barbara Kite is an Executive Speaking Coach and Professional Acting Coach as well as  Keynote Speaker in Portland Oregon

October 15, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*The basis of all good speaking – EASE

David Mamet’s famous dictum offers us a great way to discover ease in our work. “invent nothing, deny nothing, accept everything”.

Do not push, do not try to hard, do not invent.

 But be open, be vulnerable, be willing to see and seize opportunities that arise, do not deny what happens or what you feel.

Denying will lead to inner stress and outer manifestations of tension.

Go with The Flow.

Lastly accept everything, decide what is within your control and what is not. Focus on those things that you have power to change and influence and you will be happier and more at ease with yourself.

from Mark Westbrook’s Acting Blog

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking coach and a professional acting coach in Portland ORegon.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*SHAKE it up

How about  a change of perspective? 

My Acting Coach would say you need to get their attention, shock them and change their perspective.

And although this clip doesn’t shock, I found it reminded me that I’m playing it safe and moved me to remember that in America we avoid the big emotions.  What else do we stay away from?

Chavela Vargas – La Llorona (Video Clip)

Just another reminder through art, that I need to daily shake myself out of my every dayness.

Just another reminder that as a speaker, I need to challange myself.  A reminder that I’m not using all of me to succeed in my work .

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking coach and a professional acting coach, as well as a keynot speaker, based in Portland Oregon.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*Why I prefer the messy speech over the perfect one

I specifically used the word “messy” because it goes beyond “imperfect” and connotes allowing more freedom than most of us allow ourselves. 
I know the clients I work with need a lot of coaching to let go of the need to be perfect, not to fail, not to look foolish.  It reqiures quite a bit of encouraging for them to  be  even marginally messy.    
I once worked with who kept trying to be perfect in their speech and therefore were constantly checking and watching to see if they were or not, thus, taking the attention away from the audience and the topic. That means the energry is going away from the audience. This ends up with the losing the audience.   
The messy speech usually ends up not being messy when given by the “need to be perfect” speaker because they know the subject matter backwards and although they are afraid they will freeze, look foolish or lose their place, they need to be coaxed into realizing they won’t.   They’ll just sound authentic AS IF THEY ARE GIVING THIS SPEECH FOR THE FIRST TIME which is what every actor knows as the key to a fresh., engaging, authentic performance every night.  
And don’t kid yourself your speech is a performance – it requires authenticy, heightened energry and great story telling skills JUST like actors do.     
Letting go is the key to great acting and great speaking. Perfect the speech and then let it go. Screw up, fail. You can always include what you’ve forgotten later.
Don’t sacrafice connection, authenticity, humanity for perfection. The latter is never memorable.
for more information about speaking and actng skills.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | 2 Comments

*PERFECT your speaking skills – Practice these daily

You need to practice to improve and to keep yourself  properly tuned and prepared.

Listed below is some basic daily work you can do to keep yourself in top shape.

1) remind Yourself it’s not about you by rededication to your cause 

(SEE “It’s not about you – the gift and the fear”)

2) do vocal work  – so important to keep your instrument golden

(SEE “The Voice and the Speaker”)

3) fine tune the all important  stories (sense memory)

(SEE “Sense Memory: Making Stories vivid and memorable”)

4) practice relaxation techniques perfecting your warm up

(SEE “Professional Actors Warm Up Before they go on”)

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach based in Portland Oregon


September 5, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment

*3 vocal tips actors use for speaking

The first one is rarely addressed.

ENERGY – which is so needed in speakers these days.  Do you speak to an audience the way you speak in your daily life, with friends and colleagues, occupying a very small energy space?  You won’t draw people in.

Instead try filling  the room you are speaking in,  with your energy.  How do you do that?  It’s not about being louder.  It’s about being present.  It’s about imagining that you are covering your body over the whole area and make yourself  bigger.  Give all of you to the audience.

The second one is BREATHING.  Breathing before you speaking and speaking on the breath (not holding it – please).  Breathing before every couple of sentences.  It will center your voice and your energy bringing it down to your abdomen – the source of your energry and voice.

The third is SLOW DOWN.  Too many speakers don’t give an audience time to absorb what they have just said and rush forward with the next thought, thinking they are leaving too much empty space.  Pauses are your friends.  And remember give each word it’s total value.  Last night I had an actor in class who grouped his words togther  –  I’mvery  happy  toseeyouagain.  Give each word value and say the whole word.  Of course it helps if someone is guiding you.  Habits are hard to break.

Oh and just a suggestion – take an acting class.

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

August 25, 2009 Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking | Leave a comment