Archive for February, 2011

Your Persuasive Power: Three Acting Techniques

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Persuasive power increases dramatically when business speakers use acting techniques.  I help my clients incorporate techniques I honed during my many years acting on Broadway and as a spokesperson on national television.  I love the transformation I see in executives at Fortune 500 companies when they “convince like actors”.

Actors use many techniques to convince the audience.   In today’s blog, I will summarize three of these techniques. 

It is the actor’s job to make the audience believe that the make-believe situation being witnessed is happening for real for the first time ever, and that the human beings who are acting/speaking ARE the characters and MEAN what they are saying.  This allows the audience to have a genuine, emotional experience that will hopefully shed greater light on the human condition.  Whether audiences articulate it or not, this is what brings them to the theater.

What brings the business audience to a speaker’s business presentation?  It may be a desire for business information or to learn a new skill, or it may simply be the need to fulfill a professional obligation to be there.  But none of that is what keeps the listener’s attention, keeps them riveted to the speaker, and leaves them wanting more.  The business audience, too, wants a genuine, emotional experience that will hopefully shed light on the “business condition”.

Business speakers must convince their listeners that what they are saying is real (true) and meant fullywith every fiber of their being.  They must speak with conviction, passion, and poise.

To deliver your business message with a conviction that is visible on your body and audible in  your voice, do what actors do.  As you speak in front of your listeners (and as you rehearse aloud), focus on the communication actions that lie underneath the words you are speaking.  Remember that words are only the surface layer.  The same words can be delivered in hundreds of ways, and each way can communicate something different.  Your manner of delivery can even communicate the exact opposite of the literal meaning of the words.  So, think about what you want to do to the listeners with your words.  Make plans about this before you begin to rehearse; use words the way an archer uses a bow and arrow; the way a pool player uses a cue stick; the way a golfer uses a club.   Be sure you know your underlying purpose for using words; focus on the purpose, not the words.

To speak with passion, do what actors do.  Become deeply and personally engaged with your message.  Connect to your own life experiences that relate in some what to the ideas behind your words.  As you rehearse, find a way to make that conscious connection a positive one; it should lift your spirits in some way.  Experiment with various elements from your personal life, to find the ones that are most useful for your purposes.  Rehearse with a focus on the connections you are making.  Preparing in this way will have a strong impact on your energy level and your projection of passion.

To minimize performance anxiety and nervousness, use one of the many strategies that actors use.  Take a point of view about your listeners that will feed your confidence.  These thoughts should be formulated before you begin to rehearse and may take some creativity, depending upon the nature of the audience for any given presentation.  Cultivate positive ideas about your listeners and endow them with qualities that are harmonious with the goals of your talk.  Practice viewing each audience in a way that nurtures your feelings of authority.  Preparing in this way will have a strong impact on your ability to project warmth, relaxation, and poise.

When you use these acting techniques, you will increase your persuasive power with any business audience.