An actor’s job is to affect change in another person, whether it’s their scene partner or the audience at large. When rehearsing a new play, actors spend a lot of time on script analysis; they break a script down and create a road map to follow throughout the performance. Two major parts of this roadmap are Objectives (their goals in the piece), and Obstacles (what’s in the way of those goals). How does an actor pursue their character’s goals, and overcome what’s standing in the way? By using Tactics.
Tactics are actions they will take to achieve their Objectives, and they are always verbs. An actor will choose one of these Tactics, apply it to their dialogue, and then their body and voice will follow suit. For example, if an actor chooses the Tactic “to scold,” they may raise their volume and pitch, and shake their finger while delivering their lines.
In a business presentation, you need to affect change in your listeners, as well. When you break your content down and decide which actions you will take (Tactics) to change your listeners, you also need to embody these ideas for your audience. When you use Tactics like an actor would, you create clarity for yourself and your audience (you know exactly what you’re fighting for!), and have more specific, creative presentation delivery. The key is learning how to physically embody the Tactics you choose. After you’ve determined your goals and potential challenges in your presentation, it’s time to plot the course to your destination by choosing your Tactics.
TO WARN YOUR AUDIENCE: Sometimes, an audience needs to be warned about difficulties ahead. Bring your vocal pitch down. Make your gestures very direct and specific. Keep the pace of your speech slow to emphasize the dangers of continuing down the old path.
TO INSPIRE YOUR AUDIENCE: Enough gloom and doom — what if you need to inspire your audience? Vocal quality should become louder and more musical. Eye contact should be very strong and direct. Re-emphasize a point or re-energize your stance by using your legs. Like a batter prepping for a pitch, sometimes a quick bend of the knees can figuratively “pick up” sagging physical energy.
TO CALM YOUR AUDIENCE: Maybe you’re presenting about a change, whether it be in leadership, process, or product, and your audience needs to be calmed. Volume becomes slightly softer. Think soothing. Gestures become more fluid. Walk to the edge of the stage to create a feeling of intimacy between you and your audience.
TO EXCITE YOUR AUDIENCE: You want the audience’s buy-in, right? Try exciting them! Pitch and volume go up. Gestures get bigger and more animated. Smile more to create a positive outlook for your audience.
TO PRAISE YOUR AUDIENCE: Luckily, there are often instances when we present to an audience that deserves congratulating. When you offer praise, naturally offer a smile along with it. A smile coupled with strong, direct eye contact will convey your sincerity and drive your message home.
TO ENCOURAGE YOUR AUDIENCE: Sincerity is of the utmost importance. One of the keys to sincerity is: Strong eye contact. You want to engage your audience by speaking directly to them, not “at” them. Your audience will know if you are looking directly at them or over their heads. Don’t fake eye contact; use it to your advantage! Find your thoughts in your audience’s eyes, pause, and breathe while maintaining direct eye contact.
TO ENTICE YOUR AUDIENCE: Looking to entice the crowd? Play a game of opposites. Ask for a show of hands as to how many people have struggled with a certain feature, or wished for a change in the system, or lost business because of a shortcoming. Then, lay out how a new feature will fix that problem. This is a great way to get audience buy-in!
TO ENLIGHTEN/TO EDUCATE YOUR AUDIENCE ABOUT RESULTS: Sometimes we need to get technical with our audience by showing them “just the facts, ma’am”. If you’ve got a PowerPoint laden with statistics, use the “b” key on your laptop, or the blackout key on your PowerPoint remote. Show the audience the necessary information but be sure to black out the screen as you infuse these images and numbers with life and personality.
TO CHALLENGE YOUR AUDIENCE: Make your listeners to rise to the occasion! Use the stage. Start stage right, and offer one line of challenge to one section of the audience: “Will you take up the call?” Cross stage left, plant, and do the same with that section of the audience: “Are you ready to make the change?” Finish by landing at center stage: “Now is the time to try something new.”
TO ACCLIMATE YOUR AUDIENCE TO A NEW PRODUCT: Maybe you’re presenting about a dramatic change in the business, like the implementation of a new product. Be aware of the pace of your speech. You may be familiar with your content, but your audience is not. Rushing through will leave them in the dark. Be sure to pause when needed to allow your audience to mentally “catch up” with your information.
TO ASSESS THE CURRENT SYSTEM FOR YOUR AUDIENCE: A “State of the Union” type of speech is a common business presentation. Avoid excessive upspeak (ending sentences with an upward swoop in pitch) when giving an honest assessment, especially of a failing system. Remember, upspeak lends a questioning tone to your information. When used too much, you undermine your credibility.
TO OUTLINE BASIC FEATURES FOR YOUR AUDIENCE: New products or processes usually have multiple components. Put different “features” on different places on the stage. Deliver the information on each feature in a specific stage location and return to that location when referencing that feature throughout your presentation. This will help your audience differentiate information, as well as create interest through movement in a content-heavy section.
TO BUILD CREDIBILITY WITH YOUR AUDIENCE: Establish your credibility during your introduction and build upon it throughout. Credentials are often shared in list form. Any time you are delivering content in the form of a list, the delivery of that list needs to build dramatically. You can do so by stressing connective and transition words like “and” “also” “more than that,” etc. Remember, you’re not bragging; you’re letting your audience (briefly) know why they should trust you.
TO EMPOWER YOUR AUDIENCE: Maybe you’re doing a presentation extolling the virtue of risk-taking as the business grows and changes. Take one bold step down stage as you rally the troops. Follow with a strong neutral position and open gestures to underline the importance of the content and bring you closer to your listeners.
About Ovation: Ovation specializes in professional presence, speaker readiness, storytelling for business and emotional intelligence in leadership. The company recently launched Studio G, an AI-driven virtual speaker coaching platform that helps both amateur and professional speakers shine. For more information visit www.getovation.com.