Stage Presence: It Can Be Learned
Posted by Anni M.
Traditional wisdom has always relegated stage presence to two categories: the born-with-it category and the life experience category. In drama class in college I was taught that some people have natural presence. For those of us who don’t, hard work and many years of experience on the stage can help us build presence. I think this is a defeatist attitude. Presence is a consequence of confidence. Confidence is a consequence of many things. Experience is definitely one of them but psychological conditioning can help build confidence much more quickly. I’m a big proponent of the “as-if” strategy: if you act as if you have confidence, your audience won’t know the difference.
Acting means stepping out of yourself. It’s about inhabiting a character. In a presentation, you inhabit the character of the presenter. Imagine yourself as two people: one person that lives your everyday life and another person that performs. The more you can separate your everyday self from your performing self the better able you will be to inhabit that role. It will also help you discard some of your anxieties and fears. Your performing self doesn’t carry the same baggage as your every day self. He is free from worry. He doesn’t have to concern himself with the laundry list of unfinished work waiting on your desk. He isn’t stressed out about his mother-in-law’s impending visit. He is an unburdened projection, your best foot forward.
It may sound strange—splitting your consciousness into two parts—but it’s a technique many actors use to separate their egos from their characters. Nerves are heavily linked with self-consciousness and fear. We have an image of ourselves that we present to the world and we are terrified of failing to uphold that image. When we embarrass ourselves, we worry that people will think less of us. This is especially true when we perform at work. To our coworkers, we are the same person we always were. There is no anonymity and that is frightening.
Effective splitting does take practice but it’s something you can try while you’re going about your day. When you go to the coffee shop, let go of your fears and become fearless. It’s easiest to practice this around people you don’t know. If something occurs to you, say it. If you notice a woman’s smart jacket, compliment her. Strike up conversations as often as possible. The more comfortable you get inhabiting your alter-ego, the more accessible it will be to you on stage. These skills will help you in every performance, from interviews to presentations.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..