Approaches to Dramatic Acting

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  • 0:00 Performing Public Speaking
  • 1:00 Preparation
  • 2:05 Performing
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Public speaking is something that terrifies many people, but some of the greatest public speakers got that way by thinking of speaking as a performance. In this lesson, we'll look at some approaches to acting that can help improve public speaking.

Performing Public Speaking

When you ask a handful of people what they are afraid of, you are guaranteed to get a few common responses- clowns, sharks, ghosts, and public speaking. For whatever reason, the prospect of public speaking can be daunting, even terrifying. This is often especially true for naturally introverted people. But did you know that some of the worlds most respected actors are naturally very quiet and shy? It's true. The ability to feel comfortable in front of a crowd is not something you have to be born with to be good at. So why are actors able to do what they do so well? Because they learn not just how to speak but how to perform.

Many public speakers, from politicians, to preachers, to teachers, have found that applying the methods of approaches of acting to public speaking changed their entire outlook on getting in front of a crowd. After all, all of life's a stage.


The first tip to acting, and the first tip to public speaking, is simple- be prepared. Good actors know their lines and are very disciplined in their rehearsal. I'm not saying you have to memorize every line of your presentation, but make sure you know the information. You can also prepare in other ways; run through vocal exercises, warm up your voice, shake out your hands and touch your toes. These little movements get blood flowing and build up energy.

Also, think about your audience. Public speakers are often nervous in front of an audience because they don't know them but really, you do. You know why they're here and you can think about what they are hoping to get out of this presentation. Actors think about their audiences like this as well.

Next, visualize yourself doing well. Actors do this to build up conscious awareness of their voice, stage presence, etcetera.

Finally, dress the part. Actors wear costumes to make a statement about the character and in a way, you should too. If you want to be seen as prepared, intelligent, and in charge, dress like someone who is.


Now you can rehearse all you want, but at some point, it's actually time to present. But don't just present, perform. Make this not just a performance but your performance. Here are some ways actors do this.

First, use your space. The presentation space is your stage, it doesn't belong to anybody else, just you. And you can control everything that happens on your stage. So don't be afraid to move around. Actors don't stand still while performing do they? Sometimes they get closer to the audience to make a point, sometimes they get further away. Think of your presentation space as performance space and interact with it in ways that help prove your point.

Performing rather than just presenting is really all about stage presence. Actors control stage presence by maintaining good posture, controlling breathing, and using hand gestures appropriately. A good tip to remember with hand gestures is NODS, an acronym that stands for neutral, open, defined, strong. Start your performance with hands by your side at a neutral position. Then start using wide gestures that open you up to the audience. Then use defined, strong gestures throughout the performance to accentuate major points.

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