“I Did What You Told Me To Do.”

Beyond Crystal Ballroom, Julie Davis, (c)2012

I find that the best Holiday gift I can receive is when people learn exactly what they need to become better speakers.  I’ve been truly gifted recently.  Great results from two individual clients who attended my workshop have me smiling and happy.

Peter heads a very active and large charity.  He is new to the position.  He called because he was being asked to make short speeches, often.  He is a soft spoken man and that wasn’t helping him rouse the troops to give in time and money.  When I had him focus on the exciting results he could accomplish and all the people he could help; Peter became louder without thinking about it, he spoke with authenticity and with passion.

Last week he called to tell me he was very pleased with the speech we’d been working on.  I said “What did you do?”  He said, “I did what you told me to do.  “What did I tell you to do?”  I asked.

“You said to make eye communication with everyone and make sure that I landed my words on them.  You said it wasn’t about me.  And you told me to fill the room with my energy.  I love speaking.”

I didn’t think I’d ever hear that from him.

David is an administrator at a Maritime Museum and he sent me videos of events he’d spoken at.  He was already pretty good but I knew he could be better and so did he.

I received an email from him the other day with an attachment.  He had done a radio commercial for the Museum and wanted me to hear it.  I couldn’t believe it.  He sounded like a pro.  I know because I am a pro.  I called him and said “David, what did you do?  That was terrific.”  “I did what you told me to do,” he said.  “What did I tell you to do?”  I asked.

“You said that I should speak on my breath and that each word mattered and that it wasn’t about me but about the community at the Museum.  I want to take your acting class.”

He’s starting in January.

As a coach you sometimes don’t know what hits home with people, but Peter and David were listening.  Both these men had something else in common.  They worked hard at the assignments they were given and with the practice came the mastery.


IMG_1709[1]If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve already seen the great responses I’ve had to the workshops.  One participant came up to me after the first hour (of five) and told me she had already gotten her money’s worth.  Wow!  I wanted to say, “Okay we can all leave now.”

Another participant, who already did a lot of speaking, was reluctant to attend.  He thought the workshop would be too basic but I promised him he would be challenged.  He wrote to tell me what a treat it was for him to take my workshop and how he learned new things and re-learned others.

I received lots of fabulous feedback about what people learned from the workshops but now I want to focus on what I learned.  In both workshops it became clear to me that certain common tools were being neglected by most speakers.  And here they are.

BREATH SUPPORT – Nobody takes this seriously.  And yet the allure of your voice, the power in your speech, the passion in your presentation, the variety in your words and images all are linked to YOUR BREATH.

GIVING VALUE AND MUSCLE TO EVERY WORD (even “the” and “and” and “a”).  Nobody takes this seriously.  And yet if you take a close look (which is my job) you will notice that you leave the audience when you drop the energy in a word, you leave the audience when you slur and glide over a word making it unimportant, you leave the audience when you don’t USE EVERY WORD.  You know what happens when you leave the audience?  They’ve been waiting for an out.  Just a couple of seconds of not caring enough about them and they’re gone.  Is that what you want?

PAUSING AND SLOWING DOWN.  Nobody takes it seriously.  When I ask people to slow down and use pauses, most don’t feel comfortable enough to really take this concept in as they feel exposed.  It always takes me six or seven or more times to get them to slow way down and take much longer pauses.  We think we’re boring so we want to move it along.  We don’t realize that the audience is hearing our words for the first time and they need help digesting the new information we’re giving them. They do that in the pauses.

I’ve talked about all this before but it bears constant repeating in new ways to bring it home because it’s THAT important.  I know.  I’ve seen the results in my workshops and in my individual clients.

And there’s morebeing present, focus, concentration, authenticity and the gift.
I’ll discuss these in my next newsletter.  Also in January there will be a guest article, “How to Learn a Monologue (or a speech)” by Jon Farley.  It describes an approach he developed for learning a twelve minute (1600+ word) piece of text he will be performing.

Artwork (c)2012, Julie Davis

Bill Clinton: An Amazing Speaker – find out why

A short class in how to:

  • Speak from the heart to the audience, not at them,
  • Making it a conversation with them, not talking down to them,
  • Improvising your speech so it’s totally yours.


How Bill Clinton Ad-libs His Way To a Winning Speech – CNN.com 

By David Kusnet, Special to CNN, updated 10:58 AM EDT, Fri September 7, 2012


“A game changer for speakers that guarantees results.”


Friday, December 7, 2012 – 10AM – 4PM

Last weeks workshop was OUTSTANDING.  So many smart and interesting people came and each one left with something they could apply immediately to their work. I was so energized by them. Now it’s  your chance!

Register by November 30th and receive a discount.

“Barbara Kite has a gift that I am ever so grateful to have been the recipient of.  I have done some speaking but I knew that I was good, not great!  Barbara knows how to make us great.  She  is courageously committed to giving each of her clients the compassionate truth about what they need to achieve excellence. She taught me to have the courage to be totally authentic.  Be more, don’t do more.  Thanks Barbara.” –Suze Cumming, PCC, The Nature of Real Estate

“As Henry Emerson Fosdick once said… ‘Have the daring to accept yourself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the game of making the most of  your best.‘ That is the feeling of my experience at the Great Speakers Workshop.  Fun and rewarding. Thank you Barbara…loved the course.” – Cathy Nehl, Nehl & Assoc., LLC



Christopher Walken – About the art of learning the words

From NY TIMES MAGAZINE Article Christopher Walken Isn’t as Weird as You Think Christopher Walken interview by JESSICA GROSS Published: November 9, 2012


…I’m like that about learning a script.  I like to stand in my kitchen with the script on the counter that’s about chest high.  Usually I do something else at the same time – make a chicken or slice vegetables  – and all day long I just read it over and over and over.


It’s the power of distraction. My own way of thinking is very conservative, very linear and not particularly imaginative, but if I look for things in different places, sometimes things happen.

Different Types of Pauses

I want to thank Susan Trivers for allowing me to re-post her most recent blog.  It is a very concise description of the three major types of pauses you can use in your speech or presentation. ~Barbara Kite

Susan Trivers’ blog is reprinted here with her permission.

The Power of Pauses in Your Speeches

Susan Trivers

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Susan Trivers

Do you think a pause is a pause is a pause? That as a business speaker, all you need to do is pause every so often?

I recently recognized that there are three different types of pauses and special value in each one. Join me for a short discovery tour of pauses:

1) The short silent pause between thoughts: this is the pause that most business speakers are familiar with. You stop for a moment at the end of one thought and then go on with your next idea.

The value of this pause is to give the audience a moment to catch their breath mentally. They quickly finish processing what you just said and clear their minds for the next idea. This pause is the one that often causes speakers to utter “um” or “uh” as they also transition from one idea to the next.

2) The pause after each of three words: this is a tactical pause designed to emphasize a key idea. The words need to be one (or two) syllables each so you create a memorable rhythm. They follow other content spoken in your normal cadence. Most effective are action phrases that people will remember long after they’ve gone back to their daily work. Examples:

  • We. Will. Win.
  • Build. It. Now.
  • Free. To. Go.

3) Long pauses that allow people to think: Many speakers are uncomfortable with long silences and with the idea of giving the audiences time to think. Yet these long pauses, following a directive such as “take a moment to think about how you will lead your next meeting” (or other behavior change) are very powerful for both the speaker and the audience. There’s power in maintaining your presence during the silence and there’s power when the audience appropriates meaning to themselves, turning your ideas into their own sticky ideas.

The best speakers decide when they will pause and which type of pause they will use. The write these pauses into their notes and practice and rehearse them until they are smooth and natural. Take a moment now to Plan. Your. Pauses.



The very first impression an audience receives, and judges, from an actor or a speaker comes from the body.  And the energy it emits.  It changes everything – your voice, your movement, your authenticity, your commitment, and your spirit.

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.  It is also surprising to see the body come alive in all areas when words cannot be used.  Try it.

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.

EXERCISE: Grounding yourself in your breath in your body

  • Stand facing a wall.
  • Place one or two hands against the 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.

Patsy Rodenberg speaking of energy in 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-centred 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 behaviour 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.

Acting Can Help Your Business & Life Skills

Tom Vander Well’s blog is reprinted here with his permission


10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

Studying lines for a production "The Servant of Two Masters"

Studying lines for a production "The Servant of Two Masters"

I have a confession to make. I was a theatre major in college (yes, complete with the snooty but appropriate ”re” spelling). I’ll wait for you to stop snickering. Judson University (it was Judson College when I attended), the small liberal arts college outside of Chicago labeled the major course of studies as “Communication Arts” which is what I tend to put on resumes and bios because I realize that “theatre major” tends to elicit thoughts such as “Do you want fries with that?”

When I chose my major, I had no pipe dreams about becoming a professional actor. I did it because more than one wise adult had advised me that my actual major in college would have less impact on my eventual job search than having the actual degree. “Study what you love” I was told, “not what you think will get you a job.” I listened for once and chose theatre because I’d done it all through my secondary education, I had relative success doing it, and because I simply loved being a part of it. Fortunately, my parents gave me absolutely no grief about my choice (unlike most of my fellow majors. Thanks mom & dad!)

Fast forward 25 years and, like many people, I am no where near the waypoint on life’s road I envisioned I’d be back in college. Almost 20 years as a business consultant and now a business owner with a modestly successful track record in my business and blogging, I realize how much being a theatre major set me on the road towards success.

Here are 10 ways being a theatre major helped me succeed:

  1. Improvisation. The great thing about the stage is that when it’s live and you’re up in front of that audience anything can, and does, happen. Dropped lines, missed entrances, or malfunctioning props require you to improvise while maintaining your cool. Theatre taught me how to focus, think quickly and make do while giving the impression that you’ve got it all under control. It’s served me well when clients, airlines, coworkers, or technology wreak unexpected havoc at the worst possible moment.
  2. Project Management. A stage production is basically a business project. You have teams of people making up one team working to successfully accomplish a task on time, on budget in such a way that you earn the applause and an occasional standing ovation. Being taught to stand at the helm of a theatrical production was a project management practicum.
  3. Working with a Limited Budget. Everybody who has worked on stage knows that it’s not the road to fortune. Most plays (especially small college shows) are produced on a shoestring budget. This forces you to be imaginative, do more with less and find creative ways to get the results you want without spending money. Ask any corporate manager and they’ll tell you that this pretty much describes their job. Mine too.
  4. Dealing with Very Different Human Beings. The theatrical community is a mash-up of interesting characters. It always has been. From fringe to freakish to frappucino sipping socialites and everything in between, you’re going to encounter the most amazing and stimulating cross-section of humanity when you work in theatre. In my business career I have the unique and challenging task of walking in the CEO’s office in the morning to present our findings in an executive summary presentation and to receive a high level grilling. I will then spend the afternoon presenting the same data to overworked, underpaid, cynical front-line employees and get a very different grilling. Theatre taught me how to appreciate, understand and effectively communicate with a widely diverse group of human beings.
  5. Understanding the Human Condition. Most people have the mistaken impression that acting is all about pretending and being “fake” in front of others. What I learned as a theatre major was that good actors learn the human condition intimately through observation and painfully detailed introspection. The better you understand that human being you are portraying from the inside out, the better and more authentic your performance is going to be. In my business I am constantly using the same general methods to understand my clients, their customers as well as myself and my co-workers. I believe that having a better understanding of myself and others has ultimately made me a better (though far from perfect) employee, consultant, employer, and ultimately friend. I didn’t learn methods of observing and understanding others in Macro Econ, I learned it in Acting I & Acting II.
  6. Doing Whatever Needs to Be Done. When you’re a theatre major at a small liberal arts college there is little room for specializing within your field. You have to learn to do it all. Light design, sound engineering, acting, directing, producing, marketing, PR, set design, set construction, ticket sales, budgeting, customer service, ushering, make-up, and costuming are all things I had to do as part of my college career. Within our merry band of theatre majors we all had to learn every piece of a production because at some point we would be required to do what needed to be done. I learned that I can capably do just about anything that I need to do. I may not love it and I may not be gifted or excellent at it, but give me a task and I’ll figure it out. I now work for a small consulting firm that requires me to do a wide range of tasks. The experience, can-do attitude and indomitable spirit I learned in the theatre have been essential to success.
  7. Hard work. I remember creating a tree for one of our college shows. We had no idea how we were going to do it, but we made an amazing life-like tree that emerged from the stage and looked as if it disappeared into the ceiling above the theatre. My team mates and I cut out each and every leaf and individually hot-glued them to the branches of the tree. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them glued on while standing precariously on a rickety ladder high enough above the stage that it would make an OSHA inspector soil his boxers. Sleepless nights, burnt fingers and a few brushes with tragedy were needed to get that tree done. But, we got it done. It was fabulous. And a few days later we tore it down, threw it out, and got ready for the next production. C’est la vie. In business I have periods of time with unbelievable workloads in which there are sleepless nights, seemingly endless days and tireless work on projects that will be presented and then will be over. The report will be archived and I’m onto the next project. C’est la vie. I learned all about that as a theatre major.
  8. Making Difficult Choices. You’ve got four parts and twenty four schoolmates who auditioned. Some of them are your best friends and fellow theatre majors. Do you choose the unexperienced jock because he’s best for the part or the friend and fellow theatre major who you fear will never talk to you again if you don’t cast him? My senior project was supposed to be performed outside in the amphitheater but the weather was cold, windy and miserable. Do I choose to stick with the plan because it’s what my actors are comfortable with and it’s what we’ve rehearsed and it will only stress out the cast and crew to change the venue at the last minute? Or, do I choose to think about the audience who will be more comfortable and might actually pay attention and appreciate the performance if they are inside away from the cold, the wind and possible rain? [I changed the venue]. Any business person will tell you that difficult decisions must sometimes be made. The higher the position the harder the decisions and the more people those decisions affect. Being a theatre major gave me a taste of what I would have to digest in my business career.
  9. Presentation Skills. Okay, it’s a no brainer but any corporate employee can tell you horror stories of having to endure long training sessions or corporate presentations by boring, unprepared, incompetent or just plain awful presenters. From what I’ve experienced, individuals who can stand up confidently in front of a group of people and capably, effectively communicate their message while even being motivating and a little entertaining are among the rarest individuals in the business world. Being a theatre major helped me be one of them.
  10. Doing the Best You Can With What You’ve Got. Over the years I’ve told countless front line service reps that this is rule #1 of customer service. You do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with. I remember an Acting I class in college in which a pair of students got up to present a scene they’d prepared. They presented the scene on a bare stage with no lighting, make-up, costumes, props or set pieces. It was just two students acting out the script. It was one of those magic moments that happen with live theatre. The rest of the class were transfixed and pulled into the moment, reacting with surprising emotion to what they witnessed. You don’t need Broadway theatrics to create a magical theatrical moment on stage. You don’t even need a stage. The same is true of customer service. You don’t always need the latest technology, the best system, or the greatest whiz bang doo-dads. A capable CSR doing the best they can and serving a customer with courtesy, empathy, friendliness and a commitment to resolve can and does win customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Use ISIE to Conquer Performance Anxiety

Let’s talk about nerves, fear, being scared of audiences as a speaker and as an actor.  There is an approach I’ve used with clients on such issues and I’d like to share it with you.  Turn I’M SCARED into I’M EXCITED. Days, hours, even minutes before you audition, or go on stage to perform or speak, – turn it around. It’s easy – I S I E.


1)   Admit you’re scared

That’s right admit it.  Say it out loud.  I’m afraid I am going to SCREW UP and make a FOOL of myself.  I’m afraid I’ll FORGET what I’m saying.  I’m afraid I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH.  I’m afraid they WON’T LIKE ME. Realize this is OLD STUFF.  and it’s easy to CHANGE.

The adrenaline rush is the same

REMEMBER A TIME YOU WERE AFRAID . . . . NOW REMEMBER A TIME YOU WERE EXCITED. ANY DIFFERENCE IN YOUR BODY? Your heart races, you feel butterflies flapping wildly in your gut, your breathing intensifies, you feel a sense of heightened sensitivity as your eyes widen and your limbs quiver with anticipation. They’re the same. So focus on IT’S EXCITING!

2)   It’s Exciting

You have a MESSAGE.  You KNOW it will be USEFUL to your audience.  Get excited about it.  Get excited about meeting new people.  Get excited about having a gift to give people that will make a difference in their lives.  Get excited that you have this wonderful opportunity to be part of a community.  Get excited because it WILL BE A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE. It works. Our mind starts imaging it ALL WORKING.

GOT IT? Now there is more to public speaking, – vocal presence, authenticity, the construction of the speech. Next to content, the truth is, NONE OF THAT IS AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR EXCITEMENT, YOUR ENTHUSIASM. It trumps everything.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to calm this powerful Niagara Falls of adrenalin. Your body is geared up for fight or flight and trying to deny it won’t help make it go away.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter you know you need a solid preparation before going on stage. Your physical being is as important as your vocal presence.  Here’s a quick way of dealing with this rush.

Jump up and down, run around the block and recite  IT’S EXCITING (even if at first you don’t believe it), this physical action can make a huge difference. Harnessing this energy instead of denying it can turn a GOOD SPEAKER INTO A GREAT ONE.



TWO STORIES – Matt and Jon

Matt is waiting to go on stage to talk about the new product line his company is offering to the public next week. He’s nervous. And that is THE MAIN SENTENCE in his head. “Damn. I’m soo scared. I wish I wasn’t nervous. I’m going to screw this up.  He repeats this over and over again like a mantra that takes hold and digs in deeper and deeper.  He waits to go on and speak and his breathing is shallow and he’s shaking and his hands are cold.  He tries to take deep breaths but by then he has so convinced himself he can’t do this, the breathing is of little help. He tries to distract himself and thinks about other things.  He withdraws within himself in an attempt to escape.

Jon is waiting for his introduction about himself and his topic to finish – Sleeker Widgets for a Safer Vehicle. He’s been excited most of the day. He was so revved up about this talk that he went for a short run before coming to the convention. He’s been thinking about the speech all day, running over the stats and the story he’s going to tell, as the butterflies in his stomach flutter away. He’s been telling himself, They are going to be so happy to know there is a better widget for our product. It will make them feel we are the best in the industry. This is going to be great. I’m so lucky I can deliver this good news to them.” He didn’t quite believe it at first. He was tempted to call it fear, but he resisted. Backstage he feels the excitement level increasing and paces the floor, humming to himself every now and then to discharge the adrenaline and keep himself focused.

His body is dong the same thing Matt’s is, but Jon keeps moving and keeps up the list of why it’s exciting,

The two speakers have totally different experiences. Matt has spent so much time trying to distance himself from thinking about the speech, he appears disinterested in it. He’s been trying to keep his body still so he could relax. All this energy is all bottled up ready to blow, but he holds on tight to control it. His voice is monotone and he runs through his speech quickly without pausing or connecting to the audience. No one really hears what he has to say. He leaves beating himself up for being a failure. This only sets the stage for his next speech to go south.

Jon bounds onto the stage smiling, full of energy and it’s immediately obvious to one and all. He’s been releasing adrenaline all day so he can let it out slowly and maintain a voice that is connected to his body and his excitement about his topic. Even when he makes mistakes people don’t notice, he just continues right on with the flow of excitement that permeates everything. He leaves feeling successful and appreciated.

Primitive Dynamic of Voice

What are your biggest challenges in speaking?

Nerves? Your voice? Connecting to the audience? Finding the right stories to tell?

I want to make sure this newsletter answers the concerns and challenges you have as a speaker and provide you with the tools you can use to become a better one. So email me (Barbara@barbarakite.com).

I will be addressing four of the top concerns speakers have in a free audio download – 4 Proven Acting Skills meant especially for speakers. It will be covering Tension Reduction, Vocal Authenticity, Vivid Storytelling, and Vocal Clarity. Look for it and my new web site GREAT SPEAKERS USE ACTING SKILLS by summer’s end.

This month’s article touches on one aspect of Vocal Power or Influence. This interesting article makes one aware of how vitally important it is to understand the affect your voice has on an audience.


Good speakers know that their voice has levels and movement and can affect an audience.

Great speakers know that the voice is an instrument and that it needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.

What is the primitive dynamic of the voice?  It is the music your vocal instrument creates which, when used effectively, can move an audience.

Good speakers know that their voice has levels and movement and can affect an audience.

Excellent speakers know that the voice is an instrument and that it needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.  They know how to use pitch, pace and power to create the vocal music necessary to connect to their audience.  They aren’t afraid of iambic pentameter because they understand how to use the primitive dynamic voice.

Here is an interview with Lyn Darnley*, one of the most respected vocal coaches in the world, discussing the dynamics of speech.  There is much to learn.

by Lee Jamieson

I think that language is becoming very cerebral and we are now separating ourselves from its primitive dynamic.  Today, we tend to ask “what does that word mean?” rather than “what does that word do to us when we speak or hear it?”

The power of the spoken word is something that goes back to the Greeks and Romans in an age before technology.  The most powerful thing is the spoken word.  So my work is about going back and looking at the real visceral energy of language and what its prime purpose is.  And that requires a fair amount of dexterity and physical technique because we’re much less engaged with language now.  Speech is less engaged.  We don’t speak with the same muscularity, energy or dynamic like people did before there was a visual back up for communication.

Lyn Darnley
Photo © RSC / Ellie Kurttz

Spoken language is primarily a vibration capable of physically impacting upon us in the same way music does.  So, Shakespeare’s language conveys much more than its literal meaning because it’s layered with sound, dynamic, explosion – language is actually very violent.

The sound and rhythm of Shakespeare’s language helps create his characters.  You can physically feel it when consonants collide or when vowels are open, long, short or squeezed.

The English language is naturally full of rhythm, full of stressed and unstressed sounds.  Iambic pentameter is simply an unstressed sound followed by a stressed one repeated five times.  It’s very close to the natural rhythm of the English language, so it works very well.  Ten beats coincides nicely with the length of a thought.  But Shakespeare becomes really exciting when you break that iambic pentameter rhythm.  The energy in performance comes from when you go against the iambic.  You don’t need to study iambic pentameter – you just need to feel it, which will come naturally from speaking and listening to the text.

I think that the most important thing is to speak Shakespeare, not read it. This is because you need to get it into your body.  The words need to affect you through the sound and through the muscular activity in the mouth. The words can’t do that on the page!

*Lyn Darnley is Head of Text, Voice and Artist Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company,
and initially worked in the theater as an actor and as a broadcaster and television presenter.

A Speaker Prepares

Just like the actor, the great speakers prepare before they go on.  And there are so many different ways of doing it.  It all depends on what issues you need to address before you walk onto the stage.

Here are a couple of obstacles and some proven solutions.

FEAR – I was driving to a speaking engagement last year and it came up.  Yes, – fear.  After all the coaching and speaking, I do, I had butterflies.  It happens to everyone who cares about their work and actually fuels it.  Without a certain amount of excitement your presentation will be flat.  It is also true that too many butterflies can shut you down.

So I did what I tell my clients to do.  I flipped the word “fear” to “excitement”.  After all the feeling is the same, it’s just the way we describe it to ourselves. I started to tell myself the truths I knew about the upcoming event – “It’s going to be exciting meeting new people.”  “It’s exciting to offer important techniques that open a whole new world of speaking and connecting.”  Talk to yourself about what you love about speaking and let it carry you into your presentation.

HEIGHTENED ENERGY – Speaking is like performing in that it requires heightened energy.  You cannot move from your ordinary world onto the platform and expect the same energy to carry your message to the audience.

There are many ways of preparing ahead of time to meet this need. Two of my favorites are–

1)      Open your arms wide and stick your chest out and become the ball of sun that shoots out the energy needed to cover the entire audience.  Then take a deep, rich breath filling your body like a balloon with air and letting it out slowly.  Do it in the bathroom stall if need be.  But do it.  And feel the largeness of your energy and imagine covering the whole of the audience with your body extending to every corner of the room.  Embrace your audience.  Give them your gift – your message.

2)      Sing a song (in your head or if you can – out loud).  I actually do it out loud in the parking lot before going into the building where my presentation is being held.  In New York, before going to an audition, I’d leave the office I was working in and sing in an empty express elevator or even on the street on my way to the subway – no one cared in New York.  My favorite was from BRIGADOON – It’s Almost Like Being in Love.  One of my current clients (a television host) like to sing Whatever Lola Wants and I understand Al Roker prefers the theme from Rocky before he goes on camera.

What song would get you feeling terrific?  Why not try it before your next presentation?

THE INTRO to your speech

Be smart and write your introduction because your speech or presentation starts when the person introducing you reads what you have written.

So do you list your accomplishments and abilities and wonderfulness? Why not? Everyone does! My one hue and cry will continue. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

What can your audience expect to receive from you? What is the gift you are giving that will make a difference to them – in their lives, in their work? Focus on that in your introduction and make sure the person who is doing your introduction gets your written speech ahead of time.

I did this recently. I handed my introduction to a women who was going to introduce me and she read exactly what I wrote; in monotone, without pausing, hurriedly. It made no sense.

I was distraught. What to do next? Teaching people how to speak is what I do. But I couldn’t prevent her from butchering a simple introduction. Her head was somewhere else. She didn’t care. She made a bad impression. And she didn’t help me either.

I’ve decided to put in pauses (directions) and then ask them to read it over before we go on to make sure they understand my introduction.

Presumptuous? Maybe. But how else do I take care of my audience? How do I make sure they get the most from me in exchange for their valuable time?

Another time a friend of mine was to introduce a speaker. My friend herself is an amazing speaker but she decided to really help this person and sing the introduction. The speaker was steaming afterward and said that she wanted to be introduced the way it was written without any creative additions.

How good are you at introducing people? Some I find are greatly lacking in this skill. They end up looking sloppy, disinterested, unprofessional. Don’t make that mistake when you introduce a speaker.

And when you write an introduction for yourself – what does it say about your desire to be of service to the audience?

Here is the introduction I wrote for the Public Relations Society of America Conference regarding Acting Skills and Public Speaking:




Short, to the point and addressing the needs of the audience.

What does your introduction say about you?

Quotes That Inspire

Hi one and all – I have a love affair with quotes that inspire and I know most of you do too.  Here are my favorite ones.

This first one is a reminder. I have to read it every so often to get a shot of courage.

“It is not the critic that counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” — Teddy Roosevelt

This is for actors and speakers, but especially speakers. I offer to you the actor’s life – what it is about them that makes their work and their experience important for you to examine and include in your own creative endeavors.

If someone asks why you do what you do, tell them this:

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the Earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in 1 year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get “real jobs,” and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day they have to ignore the possibility that the vision to which they have dedicated their lives is a pipe dream. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the cars, the family, the house, the nest egg.”

“But they stay true to their dream, in spite of sacrifices. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that line, that laugh, that gesture or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another person’s heart. In that instant, they are as close to magic, God and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”— David Ackert

We hide so much. It’s important to remember that truth is freeing.

“… I never understood why people get into such a state about nudity. For God’s sake, it’s much, much more difficult and revealing, and incredible, to show your soul, and that’s what you’ve got to be willing to do. Why anyone should want to be an actor, without being prepared to do that, I have no idea.” — Eileen Atkins

And this can never be said enough.  Too many of us focus on what doesn’t work about us and don’t treat ourselves with the love and respect we give others.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — The Buddha

♦     The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. ~ Carl Jung

♦     When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” ~ Howard Ikemoto

♦     Art… does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon. ~ Agnes Repplier, Points of View, 1891

♦     Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is. ~ Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, 1915

♦     Any great work of art… revives and re-adapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world – the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. ~ Leonard Bernstein, What Makes Opera Grand?

♦     Each time an actor acts he does not hide; he exposes himself. ~ Rodney Dangerfield

♦     Bunny slippers remind me of who I am. You can’t get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers. You can’t lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers. Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they’re so jaunty. They make a statement; they say, ‘Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can’t be silly and frivolous.’ If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers. ~ Dean Koontz

♦     With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying. ~ Johnny Depp

♦     When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. ~ Cynthia Heimel