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Why Public Speaking is Not Acting

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach

aving read Jane Andrew’s article entitled Public Speaking is Acting, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you why the best public speakers are not acting: they are communicating.

Acting requires memorization of a script that has been marked by the actor; i.e., pause here, smile there, increase your volume, etc. In teaching public speaking, I emphasize not marking the script because I don’t want a rote delivery.

The beauty of public speaking is that your audience often determines how your material will flow; and, good public speakers know how to work with good audiences. Anecdotes or jokes may be added on the spur if the audience is highly receptive; whereas, if the audience is unresponsive, many speakers will drop some material and move in a different direction.

In that respect, good public speakers are thinking throughout their entire delivery because they are communicating. They are not trying to be someone other than themselves. They understand and value their own individuality. And, they talk to their audience just as if they were having a conversation in their living room.

Actors, on the other hand, are portraying a character other than themselves with material that is memorized. Whether their audience is laughing, smiling, or hissing, their lines will not change.

My advice?

1. Never mark your script and forget the smiley faces. While I advocate smiling during a presentation, I want you to smile because of the moment. Let it come naturally.

2. Do not memorize your presentation. Should you forget where you are, you are lost.

3. Do not read your presentation. You’re not at Barnes and Noble giving a reading. Your audience came to hear you speak to them, not read.

4. Practice your presentation OUT LOUD in the days before you are scheduled to speak so that you know, and are comfortable with, your material.

Actors are on stage for the purpose of entertaining an audience; and, while it is hopeful that good presentations are entertaining, the focus of public speaking should always be communication.

International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with
her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice training, future workshops, and
Voicing It!, visit her Voice Dynamic website.


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