I absolutely love live theatre, both performing in shows and watching them. Recently I had the opportunity to see several shows on Broadway and three things came to mind with regard to what presenters can learn from the theatre:
Actors in a live show will usually perform eight shows a week. This requires significant stamina to ensure they can deliver a strong performance every single show. It is in their interest to ensure they eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and do regular exercise which helps to keep their mind sharp and ensures they can bring enough energy to portray their character and engage their audience.
Good public speaking also requires a sharp mind and a high level of energy. So if you have a presentation coming up, make sure you are well rested and eat nutritious food to ensure you give your best performance.
To portray a character, an actor spends a considerable time researching and rehearsing the role. Focus during rehearsals is crucial so that by the time they step on stage they embody the character’s movements, the lines sound natural and the audience believes that the actor is the character. Once they’re on stage they must stay focused the entire time. If they lose focus they may still be able to recite their lines; however, it will become obvious to the audience as the performance will not be as immediate and engaging.
When public speaking, it is essential to stay focused on delivering a natural and authentic presentation that connects with your audience. Distractions that can pull your focus from the task at hand can be external or internal. External factors could include a disruption outside of the room in which you are speaking, a problem with equipment you are using or someone playing with their mobile phone. Internal factors could include becoming aware of the way your nerves are affecting you such as noticing your shaking knees or dry mouth or paying attention to your negative self-talk.
The moment you are distracted you lose focus so it is important to immediately get your mind back to the task at hand – concentrate only on communicating your message to the audience in a way that will interest and engage them.
The fashion or costume an actor wears not only helps the audience to better understand the character and the situation, but also helps the actor to really feel the character and give a more realistic portrayal. For example, if an actor is playing a female CEO of a blue chip company, she is not going to deliver the boardroom scene in a housecoat and fluffy slippers (unless the script calls for this!)
From my own experience one of the most important parts of a costume is the shoes. A pair of shoes can completely change the way you hold your body, move about the stage and feel inside; some characters I have played in the past I have not truly ‘felt’ and been able to portray authentically until I was wearing ‘their’ shoes.
For presenters, what you wear can significantly impact on both how you feel and how your audience responds to you. If you are presenting to an audience of high powered lawyers dressed in sharp suits, it will be more difficult to build rapport and establish your expertise if you are dressed in jeans, t-shirt and trainers. Finding out about your audience and the context of the presentation will help you select the most appropriate outfit for the occasion. Ideally your outfit will flatter your figure, enhance your complexion and make you feel fabulous. The better you feel in your outfit, the less likely you are to be distracted by what you are wearing and can focus on the audience and your presentation rather than yourself. Always aim to wear something you feel confident in – it may be your favourite pair of heels, your lucky tie or your best underwear (under your outfit!) Just like an actor, use your costume to enhance your performance and present the best, most authentic version of you.
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_