Before any school production rehearsals began, my drama teacher always drilled this saying into us “Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail”. For a 10 year old preparing for her first stage role (I gave quite a memorable peformance as the wicked witch in Snow White), these words felt a little heavy handed, but this saying has proved helpful time and time again throughout my life, especially in terms of my acting and presenting career.
This week I worked as an actor filming a new BBC comedy show. On its completion, I realised once again how similar the preparation for an acting part is to the preparation for giving a speech. I have noted down 5 key areas that cross over:
1) Know your lines
As an actor, knowing your lines is a necessity as scripts aren’t generally allowed while the camera is rolling, but learning your lines can sometimes be overlooked by a presenter, especially if using an autocue or able to refer to notes. My standpoint on this is clear – know your speech inside out. It is one thing doing the speech in your own space and feeling familiar with the words, but it is a very different experience when you are performing the speech to 50, 500, 5,000 onlookers and those pesky nerves start kicking in, causing havoc to our senses. If the words are embedded into your brain, you have far more chance of staying confident and calm when it comes to the main event.
2) Get a sweat on
I’m not suggesting you run a marathon before you present, but doing something to energise yourself before rehearsing and presenting can be extremely beneficial. Endorphins start kicking in meaning blood is pumping to you brain helping you feel alive, alert and focused. Doing a shake out of the body, 30 seconds of star jumps, or holding a power pose – anything active works for you to help calm your nerves and feel energised for the task ahead.
3) Be on time (or ideally early)
Quite an obvious one, but again on a film set, if you are not there you won’t be used. Being early means you can take time to asses the space, check technical equipment, go through your speech in its entirety and still take time to relax and focus.
4) Keep perspective
Do yourself a favour and take pressure off yourself where you can. We can tend to exaggerate the importance of our presentation into a black and white perspective: ‘This speech could be the answer to everything – my promotion, the respect of my clients, my value as a human being’. Keep things in perspective and don’t lose yourself in the chaos of it all. At the end of the day it is one speech, your life does not depend on it. Stay rational and prepare as well as you can.
5) Enjoy it
Presenting something you are passionate about can be enormously fun (honest). When acting I enjoy the connection with other actors in the scene, I like exploring new emotions and helping tell a story to a wider audience. With your speech you have the chance to speak on a topic and show your enthusiasm for it. Might as well enjoy the ride as you go.
The more an actor prepares, the more they understands the nuances of inhabiting a detailed, rich character. The best actors try to improve with every opportunity they get. I believe a presenter should do exactly the same. Take any opportunity you can to prepare mentally, physically and technically. Wowing the crowd with your lifetime achievement award speech might be just around the corner.