Presenting is not acting - The Pickering Group

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Presenting is not about acting...or is it?

We tend to think of acting as pretending – as something constructed or contrived. However, great acting is the opposite. It’s about truth. Great acting isn’t really about acting at all – it’s about being.

When embodied well, you forget that an actor is playing a part. They’re not thinking about how or when they are gesturing. They’re not consciously controlling their voice. All self-consciousness has completely slipped away. They’re in the moment. They’ve lost themselves and are fully inhabiting their character. That’s where the magic happens.

Real power comes through authenticity. And that’s what you can find when you present too.

Knowing your objective

My background as an actor is a double-edged sword. I’ve got a lot of experience to draw from, but it doesn’t help me convince people of the fact that they don’t need to act or perform to present well. What you need to do is be yourself and bring authenticity. That said, some of the exercises we used to do at drama school can help with that.

When we were planning and practicing a scene, the character we were to embody always had an objective. Everything that followed was an attempt, on that character’s part, to elicit that outcome. However, there were different ways a line could be delivered based on how you wanted the other person to feel. This gave the exchange intention, and it changed the way we delivered the lines automatically. We no longer needed to think about it or ‘act it out’.

The same goes for a presentation – you’re looking for those you are communicating with to think, feel and, ultimately, do something. 

Bringing intention to your presentations

As you prepare for your next presentation, think about the following:

  • What’s the core message or ‘big idea’ that you’re trying to communicate?
  • What do you want your audience to think and feel?
  • What do you want them to do? Is there an outcome that you’re expecting?

Authentic delivery comes from focusing on the answers to these questions and using them to structure your message in a way that is useful and relevant to your audience. In their absence, you’re communicating without intention. You’re turning up ‘just because’.

Intention is a game-changer. Suddenly you know why you’re there. You know exactly what you want people to do with the information you’re delivering – and this automatically changes the way you deliver it. You have conviction. Combine this with the comfort that comes from knowing your stuff and you’re well on your way.  

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consciously consider the way that you deliver a presentation. You should, but real skill here takes time to develop. Improving the content of your presentation, and crafting a good message, is something that you can do immediately.

So, craft your message well, then show up in that space to own it. As your self-consciousness dissolves, your authenticity increases – bringing a sense of truth and conviction to your delivery.


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