Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills



The very first impression an audience receives, and judges, from an actor or a speaker comes from the body.Artwork 057

  • Is the body tense?
  • Is the movement flowing or rigid?
  • Are the hands hidden?
  • Are the eyes down?
  • Is the circle of energy this body produces small or filling the whole room?

An audience immediately responds on a subliminal level, – liking the person or not, trusting the person or not, fearing the person or not – depending on what energy the body is transmitting.

I often ask my actors to do their monologues without words.  It is surprising to see the amount of energy that is suppressed when we rely just on words.

What should we know about the body and the energy emitted?

Are you rooted in the ground like a confident tree? (See EXERCISE below.)

Is your energy filling the space and moving from you to each person you speak to?  Are you willingly receiving the energy flowing back to you?

Do you know how to soothe – (float energy out over the audience), command attention (radiate energy out), and embrace (radiate energy by surrounding the audience with it)?  Energy is something every actor and speaker must learn to master effectively in order to fully realize the extraordinary communicator within.

Patsy Rodenberg speaking of energy in

JulieDavis Artwork

Three Circles of Energy

First Circle is the Circle of Self and Withdrawal and although useful at times for moments of introspection and reflection, if you live mainly in this circle you will be limited, your passion for life will be dulled and you are shy.  You will also tend to absorb other people’s energy to try and compensate and therefore you will be rather a draining person to deal with – I can think of several of my students who are like this and if I am not careful they can wipe me out by the end of the lesson!  First Circle energy will also not be enough for a performer to be effective.

Third Circle is the Circle of Bluff and Force where energy is outward moving and non-specific – people who operate mainly in this circle are self-centered but in a different way.  They want to be the centre of attention – we have all come across people like this at parties and all that energy which they push out has the effect of making us switch off.  Third Circle operators are in fact using this way of behavior as a shield to protect themselves.  They do not receive any energy from the world as they are alone, fighting to control life and perceived by people around them as arrogant and over-bearing.  In singing these performers tend to push the voice out there using too much energy and the audience hit by this barrage of sound does not listen with rapt attention.  In teaching, these are the students who march into the room with an over-inflated sense of self-confidence and do not listen.  Again these people are exhausting to deal with.

Second Circle is The Energy of Connecting.  People who operate in this circle have real presence.  People who operate in this circle give out energy but also receive it back.  These are the performers who literally change our lives when we listen to them.  You feel they are connecting directly with you personally even although you may be one of a very large audience.  They connect.  These students are the ones who give back energy to you and we emerge from our studio feeling as if we have not been working at all.  If only all our students could be like that, we say.


Grounding yourself in your breath, in your body.

Place one or two hands against a wall, and then exert a little pressure on the wall.  Keep your shoulders and upper chest free and unlocked, with your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels on the ground.

Maintain this pushing pressure and breathe in and out calmly.  The breath should be low and you will feel a synchronized breath and support as your push.

In this way you will feel when you are losing support and need to inhale.  This inhalation will come easily if the breath is silent and low in the body.

When you come away from the wall, you will feel more connected to your breath, yourself, and the world.

This free and flexible breath places you in the moment and can then serve your physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.  The more you breathe naturally, the more present you will be.

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


June 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Desk of …

In this posting I’m giving it over to a top voice talent and vocal  coach in Portland, Oregon.

Of course there is so much more to proper speaking but this is a BIG ONE.  Mostly I want actors and speakers to know that “speaking on the breath” is an important technique to master in order to be heard and understood. Two attributes necessary for your story/message/intent to get across to the audience.

From the Desk of MaryMac, Dialect Coach

Hello All,

Recently a discussion about “vocal fry” (also called “glottal fry”) came up on the international dialect coach listserve I hang out on. This is a sound I often hear in actors, especially younger ones.  I thought the comments on the list were worth repeating, so I’m passing them to you here unedited.  I find this stuff fascinating… hope you find it interesting, too!

Happy Sunday,

Mary McDonald-Lewis
Dialect Coach

PS  For an hilarious example of vocal fry, among other modern communication failures, go here at the 1:00 mark if you don’t want to watch the first bit: (Caveat: It’s the work of the fabulous Louis CK so be forewarned that it is fecund humor at the front end).



quick fixes – fry

(1) refill breath more often
(2) use slightly higher average pitch, [ teacher’s cue: “stay above the gravel zone”]

My quickest demo is to start at normal conversational level, explaining:

glottal fry occurs when one runs out of energy but then keeps talking and talking on empty and then it kinda makes sense to drop energy further in order to keep going and pretty soon I’m out of breath completely but as you see I haven’t refilled yet and I’m into glottal fry by now but I could really keep going for quite a while….

Improvise your own text you get the idea and you’ll get a laugh or two but I’m gonna go breathe now


Just add some more words to the sentence.

I’m going to the stor…rrrrrgghhhhhhhhhhhh


 I’m going to the store to get some apples and cheese

and then they hear themselves fully saying the final word and can then delete the extra words.


I’m not keen on asking people to listen to themselves, but I think that many chronic fryers have no idea how much they are doing it. By recording and listening back they might notice. Also, with a partner, have the partner merely lift a finger every time their partner drops into the fry-zone. This also works with uptalk? So people can notice that they’re doing it?

I think that a little knowledge about the need for breath in order for there to be “flow phonation” can be helpful ”that there is value in letting breath in because it gives “breath energy”, “gas in your tank” that you can speak on.

I suspect that many young women (typically with “soprano” speaking voices) use vocal fry because they don’t want to sound “strident” (or some other negative judgment of their higher than average voice), but don’t have many low notes in their range to access for the end of their thoughts. So the combination of uptalk (which allows them to stay in modal vibration) and fry (which allows them to go lower than they are currently capable of doing) “works” for them. To bastardize Maya Angelou: They do what they do when they know what they know. Our job is to help them know better, so they can do better.


Interesting hypotheses!

My speculation on the phenomenon has been that young women know they’re supposed to sound powerful/authoritative, but absent any real connection with body/resonance/expressive-range/belly-power, and with severe self-perceived pressure to keep tummy empty/small, best they can find is very low pitch skating @ edge of fry.

For young men with similar sound, I wonder if low-energy voice signals cool/unaggressive/ version of modern masculinity—a vocal “slouch” showing membership in the we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously-even-when-depressed fellowship.

Or, those might have been the sociolinguistic processes 10-20 years ago; by now the low pitch + inner emptiness (rib-squeeze, in Catherine Fitzmaurice’s parlance) is simply the normal accent of a generation. As others have said, there is zero awareness of fry as abnormal or unhealthy, even when they’ve come to see me because of muscle fatigue!


What they need is more breath support to avoid vocal fry. The fry happens because their is not enough airflow, so the vocal folds meet at irregular intervals, making the sound more “choppy” as they descend below their phonation threshold – below the amount of energy needed to vocalize at that pitch. We need more breath support at lower pitches, which is why we go into fry at the end of a phrase (especially true for American speakers with the line-ending drop that is so very American!)

Adding words at the end of their current phrasing tends to extend their support, as someone already mentioned. (I tend to use “, okay?” as my old standby.)

You can also add more support at the end of the phrase itself. If they know what support is, maybe you can just give that note, but if they don’t get the concept yet, try adding a physical action that causes more support: bend the knees towards a squat, press down on something, lift something heavy, press against the wall, etc.Be careful about having them start at a slightly higher pitch because they may not hear the “slightly” part and start pitching up overall. What they really need to do is to fill out the low end of their range with support!

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

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment