Telling your
story
Amanda Koziura
Who am I?
Where and when am I?
What do I want?
What is standing in the way of getting what I want?
What am I going to do t...
Who am I?
Traits Ambitions Fears
Where and when am I?
Physically Mentally Temporally
What do you want?
This is your objective
Involve another person
You do not want to inform or
share
What is standing in the way
of getting what I want?
The obstacle!
but the obstacle is not yourself
How do I get what I want?
Use what your answers taught you
Overcome obstacles
Conflict is what makes things
interesting
Storytelling
You are not just presenting
information, you are telling a story
Actioning Apply action words that describe what you want the
audience to feel
Make choices that are in line with getting w...
Sample action words
To defy
To
denounce
To
devastate
To dismay
To
encourage
To endear To idolize To inspire To objectify T...
Presentation
tips
Vocal tips
• Support breath with the diaphragm
• Enunciate
• Slow down
Physical tips
• Be aware of postu...
Questions or
comments?
Sources
consulted
○Adler, S. (1988). The technique of acting.
New York, NY: Bantam Books.
○Bartow, A. (ed.). (2006). Handb...
Image credits
Presentation template by SlidesCarnival
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Telling your story: Using acting techniques to engage your audience

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Looking to improve your public speaking? This will introduce you to acting techniques that can help you better connect with your audience and improve engagement with your material. All aspects of creating and delivering a presentation will be touched upon, from word choice to visuals to presentation style.

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  • Intro
    Action word: to welcome
     
    Introduce self and background
     
    My goal is for this presentation to give you a framework that you can apply to your own presentations, speeches, and other public speaking events to help improve your connection with your audience and be more successful at making your case. I’ve applied this framework to my own presentation as an example of how it can be done.
     
    Please feel free to ask questions in the chat throughout and if something does not make sense, please let me know. I’ll check in periodically to make sure we’re all on the same page.
  • The Five Questions
    Action word: to intrigue
     
    Before working on any scene or monologue, there are five questions that actors ask themselves when breaking down their script. Breaking down a script means taking a deep dive into their character, the other characters present, the relationships between everyone, and the circumstances that brought them all together. These questions guide that dive into what is happening on stage and the answers give them the information they need to make choices that bring everything together in a compelling portrayal of their part.
     
    In acting terms, these questions (read the questions) are referred to as given circumstances because they help define the world around the character and the circumstances they find themselves in. We can use the same principles in public speaking. By considering the answers to these questions as we are building our presentations or speeches we can build more compelling stories, therefore increasing our connection to the audience and hopefully influencing how they feel about what we are saying.
  • Who am I?
    Action word: to hook
     
    When breaking down a script, who am I refers to exactly what it sounds like. It refers to who is the character you are playing. So if an actor is cast as Captain Hook, Captain Hook is the surface level answer to the question. Actors will then identify the traits, ambitions (more on that later), fears, and other characteristics that make up the character and then determine which of those are most important to their portrayal.

    An example of a character trait for Captain Hook is him missing his right hand because the alligator bit it off. That character trait informs the actor of who Captain Hook is and in this case how Captain Hook moves. An actor may utilize this by always reaching for objects on stage first with his “hook” hand only to realize he can’t pick it up. This may result in frustration or sadness depending on how the actor has constructed their version of Hook. These types of choices bring depth to a portrayal and allow the audience to better connect with the person they see on stage.
     
    So when we translate this to our work developing a presentation you’ll be taking a close look at the traits, ambitions, fears, and characteristics that make up yourself, as you are the character that you will be portraying. It’s important to determine which of these are important to understand when giving your presentation as that can affect how you deliver it.
     
    So, let’s take me for instance. So my “character” is Amanda Koziura. I’m female, I’m a librarian, I teach workshops on technology topics, I enjoy video games but I hate spiders, and I’m expected to give a presentation on utilizing acting techniques to improve public speaking. Great. Are all of those relevant? Perhaps, perhaps not, but by understanding your circumstances you’ll start to understand which ones are.
     
    For public speaking, consider some of these: Do you have a soft speaking voice? Might need a mic. Are you afraid of public speaking? Might need to learn techniques to overcome that – breathing exercises for example. Fear of spiders? Probably not so relevant.
     
    It is not just about who you are but also who you need to be in that moment.
  • Where and when am I?
    Action word: to ensnare
     
    Where and when help define the situation that you are in. It encompasses physical, mental, and temporal concepts. For example, I am in my office. It’s (time). There are several people that I am speaking to, but I can’t see you since this is a virtual format.
     
    How you describe yourself is dictated by the environment or situation you find yourself in, and it builds on your answer to “Who am I?” I would describe myself differently if I were in a bar with friends, as opposed to going to a job interview. Just like how an actor’s portrayal of Captain Hook is going to change if instead of being in Neverland, he is instead waiting in line at the DMV. Different circumstances means different traits become important and the aspects of yourself you want to play up also change accordingly.
     
    Physically
    Where you are physically can impact what kind of attire is appropriate
    People will perceive you and your authority differently if you’re wearing yoga pants or jeans or a suit. You want to match the formality of the location when you’re dressing up because a mismatch means that you won’t be taken as seriously.
     
    My favorite story regarding first impressions and dress is that of a theater department professor. He was the chair of the department at the University of Miami and every year in August when the incoming freshman arrived on campus he made sure to spend the first two weeks dressed in a suit despite the weather. Why? Because the students would naturally assign more authority to him and treat him differently than if he was dressed otherwise. After the first couple weeks the impression had already been made so he could choose to dress down if he wanted, but those first couple weeks were key to making the impression he wanted. It’s the same any time we get up to speak in front of a class or give a presentation ourselves. Not all instances will require a suit, but attire does affect how you’re perceived.
     
    Just like when you are going to an interview, never wear something uncomfortable! (unless you’ve decided that you need to appear uncomfortable for some reason) It will distract you from putting your best foot forward.
     
    Vocabulary
    Are you talking to fellow library professionals? Undergraduates? Seniors? Children? There is different vocabulary for each.
    Avoid field specific terminology unless your audience is strictly from that field. Define your terms.
     
    Body language
    is it a casual environment? A professional one? A formal one? There’s often different etiquette for each.
     
    slouching, no eye contact v. engaged and poised
     
    What kind of venue is it? Is it local, regional, international? Are there cultural expectations you need to be aware of?
     
    How does all of this effect how you need to prepare?
     
    Match the tone to the audience and location
     
    Mentally
    Will you be tired? Nervous? Excited?
     
    How does that effect your planning? Will you need to be sure you drink coffee beforehand to energize yourself? Will you need to use breathing exercises to calm yourself down?
     
    Temporally - What time is it?
    If I’m giving a presentation in the morning, the audience might be sleepy because they just woke up. If it’s right after lunch, the might be sleepy because they just ate. If it’s late in the day, they might be sleepy because they have been at this event all day. There seems to be a theme here….
     
    Is it following other presentations? Will the audience be restless?
     
    There’s a reason people ask the audience to do jumping jacks or get up and move – roll with it.
  • What do you want?
    Action word: to explore
     
    This is what are you trying to achieve. In acting terms, we call this the all-important objective. For example, my objective is to inspire you to take the information that I’m presenting and apply it to your own work in the future.
     
    The strongest objectives will have a physical corollary that requires another person
    So, I imagine that at least some of you are taking notes with pens. Probably at least one of you has a really nice pen. A strong objective would be for me to say that I’m going to get that really nice pen. Now that you know that’s my objective, suddenly things became much more interesting, didn’t they? You want to see whether or not I’m going to succeed, and that sort of tension helps keep the audience engaged.
    That is stronger than saying I am going to get that person to like me. I might be trying to get the person to like me in order to get that beautiful pen from them, but that’s just the tactic. What makes thing interesting is that I want something from you, and the audience doesn’t know if I’ll get it.
     
    In order to clearly define the physical aspect of the objective, you have to ask yourself what both failure and victory look like. My worst-case scenario is that people will nod off, check their phones, walk out, or otherwise show that they are not interested in what I’m saying. Victory looks like people paying attention and asking questions to show engagement, whether that’s during the presentation or afterwards. Supreme victory may or may not include you all chanting my name.
     
    Other objective examples are:
    to be noticed for your work
    to inspire others
    to warn people about a danger
    to shock someone
     
    You rarely want to inform/share information because that is a weak objective
    You may be sharing information in order to shock, inspire, berate, warn, etc., but by itself it is weak
     
    Example: 76% of students who use the library get better grades (say this as informing, then as inspiring) *made up statistic

    Ask audience: What are some other examples of a presentational objective?
  • What is standing in the way of getting what I want?
    Action word: to endear
     
    This is referred to in acting terms as the obstacle. Obstacles are what prevent a character from getting what she wants. This is where that other person from my really strong objective is going to become involved. Other people are often a character’s obstacle. This is true in my case - my obstacle is getting you to buy into my presentation.
     
    In the theater world, the blocking (movement notes) given to actors is what helps determine how much one actor is winning versus another actor. Different actions, movements, or positions can show the power play between the two. In presentations, you are already given the position of power by being the focal point, so you start off with an advantage in that respect.
     
    Obstacles be resources, other people, technology
    If you need a computer for something and it’s broken, that is an obstacle. This can obviously easily come into play when giving virtual presentations.
     
    Some might say yourself, and you might be struggling with something internally, but that’s boring for the audience
    For example, if you have stage fright, the way to state that as an obstacle is that you are afraid of someone else’s perception of you, thus making the objective something external
  • How do I get what I want?
    Action word: to mobilize
     
    All of the answers to the other questions inform this one
     
    Much of acting is about overcoming obstacles to achieve your objective
    Example: Let’s return to the Captain Hook example. If I’m Captain Hook, and I’m trying to get revenge on Peter Pan, the way to do that is to kidnap someone he cares about in order to lure him in.
     
    In my case, I’m trying to inspire you by proving that these acting methods work when applied to presentations.
     
    Just like the conflict between Captain Hook and Peter Pan is interesting, the conflict between you and your obstacle is what makes it interesting for the audience
     
    Since my obstacle is you guys, and my objective is to win you over, what makes this presentation interesting (I hope) is the interaction between you and me. This is often made a little more challenging in a virtual format as it’s more difficult to interact with the audience, ask questions, and eye contact is out of the question, but you can still do your best with your visuals and your vocal inflections to make the people listening to you feel as if you’re in the same room. You’re given the audience’s attention, and it’s your job to keep it. One way to help do that is through storytelling.
  • Storytelling
    Action word: to reinforce
     
    Once you have your five questions answered, you have the information you need in order to start preparing your presentation.
     
    One big difference between acting and academic presentations is that you write your own script, but in some ways that’s easier because since you’re constructing it you have freedom to control the story you want to tell rather than try to portray someone else’s words faithfully
     
    You are not just presenting information, you are telling a story
    Use the information gathered in answering the questions to figure out the best way of telling that story
    All good stories have a beginning, middle, end
    Take the audience on a journey
    Moments of emphasis – even a climax
     
    All about conflict
    “conflict is the engine of storytelling” (Bruce, 69)
     
    Usually, the conflict for presentations will be you v. the audience
    Trying to persuade them to your way of thinking or interpreting the information you’re presenting in the same way that you have to spurn on some action.
     
    Do not expect the story to tell itself – you are the driving force behind it and it is your job to make people connect with it
    This can be helped by actioning
  • Action word: to empower
     
    Applying an action word that describes what you are trying to get the audience to feel
    Use action verbs
     
    What emotion are you trying to evoke?
    Goes back to what you want – what is the goal of evoking that emotion
    To get someone to do or feel something
    If you don’t get what you want – try a different action word next time
     
    What choices will you make?
    “actors must make choices about what their characters think, feel, and do, even when the characters they are playing are completely unaware of these feelings” (Bruce, 78)
     
    Remember, you’re telling a story. Do you want that story to be a bunch of dry facts and statistics, or do you want to make it personal? Which sells a library more – a success story as an example to back up your facts or the facts alone?
     
    If you’re using numbers, what do those numbers really mean? It’s your job to make the audience feel something about that number, be it shock, dismay, pleasure, elation
     
    Your script does not dictate this, you do. Inflection matters.
     
    Example: Joey from Friends and his iconic line “how you doing?” There’s the concerned how you doing? And then there is his pickup line how you doing?
     
     
    Have one action word per slide
  • General presentation tips
    Action word: to inspire
     
    Vocal tips
    Breathe and support breath with the diaphragm not the lungs
    Enunciate
    Slow down
     
    Physical tips
    Your presentation starts the moment you get up to give it, much like a job interview starts the moment you enter the room
    Be aware of posture
    Be grounded – physically aware and connected with yourself – this gives you presence and projects energy
    Be aware of your gestures – the less frequently you use them the more emphasis there will be when you do
     
    Visual tips
    When creating your slides, remember that they are there to help tell the story. People are able to understand data much faster when they are presented in a visual format, such as an infographic, chart or graph rather than having things simply listed out. When you can, depend on graphics rather than text to help make your point.
  • Telling your story: Using acting techniques to engage your audience

    1. 1. Telling your story Amanda Koziura
    2. 2. Who am I? Where and when am I? What do I want? What is standing in the way of getting what I want? What am I going to do to get what I want? The Five Questions
    3. 3. Who am I? Traits Ambitions Fears
    4. 4. Where and when am I? Physically Mentally Temporally
    5. 5. What do you want? This is your objective Involve another person You do not want to inform or share
    6. 6. What is standing in the way of getting what I want? The obstacle! but the obstacle is not yourself
    7. 7. How do I get what I want? Use what your answers taught you Overcome obstacles Conflict is what makes things interesting
    8. 8. Storytelling You are not just presenting information, you are telling a story
    9. 9. Actioning Apply action words that describe what you want the audience to feel Make choices that are in line with getting what you want under the circumstances you are in For presentations, one action per slide
    10. 10. Sample action words To defy To denounce To devastate To dismay To encourage To endear To idolize To inspire To objectify To please To reinforce To reminisce To reveal To shock To warn
    11. 11. Presentation tips Vocal tips • Support breath with the diaphragm • Enunciate • Slow down Physical tips • Be aware of posture • Be grounded • Be aware of your gestures Visual tips • Use images as much as possible • Infographics and other data visualizations are key
    12. 12. Questions or comments?
    13. 13. Sources consulted ○Adler, S. (1988). The technique of acting. New York, NY: Bantam Books. ○Bartow, A. (ed.). (2006). Handbook of acting techniques. London, UK: Nick Hern Books. ○Miller, B. J. (2000). The actor as storyteller: An introduction to acting. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
    14. 14. Image credits Presentation template by SlidesCarnival

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