7 Improv & Acting Techniques to Make Your Presentations More Memorable

Strong, prepared content is key to a successful presentation, but a speaker must also be able to engage with a live audience, explained Stanford Drama Lecturer Dan Klein in a recent Mastery in Communication Initiative workshop. Klein, along with Spark Creative’s Tad Glauthier (MBA ’02) and Al Samuels (MBA ’95), shared acting and improv strategies that can make you a more effective and authentic communicator:

1. Own the space
Try to get to your presentation venue in advance and imagine your body expanding into the entire room. This acting technique will help you feel like you are in charge of the space.

2. Give the audience a STAR moment
CEO and author Nancy Duarte coined the phrase “STAR moment”, or a technique to leave the audience with “Something They’ll Always Remember”. Maybe you’ll hand something out to the crowd or bring something surprising on stage. A STAR moment is most effective at the end of a presentation, says Samuels.

3. Include interactive elements 
Break down the wall between speaker and audience. Ask the audience a question and have them answer by a show of hands or have them face a partner and interact. People will put up with a little stumbling in your presentation if you are involving them. 

4. Make sure you have a strong beginning and end
We often start strong but don’t think about where we want the presentation to go. Do you want everyone to stand up in the end? Do you want them to say something simultaneously? Plan even the last couple minutes in advance.

5. Be aware of your body language nuances
Make sure your body movement matches your message. If you’re trying to be convincing, your hand gestures should be symmetrical. But don’t make them too rehearsed; your physical motions should be driven by emotions and words. If you keep your hands down at your sides, you tend to look scared. Aim to have you hands more level with your chest, on what Samuels calls the “passion plane.”

6. Know when to use humor
Humor is risky, but it’s also disarming and communal. The key is knowing your audience. Self-deprecation and any topic you know the audience would complain about are usually safe bets. 

7. Include a visual, auditory and kinesthetic detail
People learn differently so if you include all three types of information you’ll connect with more audience members.

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