I remember the day the light bulb went off for me in terms of some major acting technique. I was struggling with putting together some big concepts, and realized something about acting that has stayed with me to this day: Acting is like a math problem.
Some people think that acting is merely being emotional, or dramatic, or overdone in front of other people. It's not. Sure, some actors have made a career out of that. But the difference between good and great acting is all in the approach.
How is acting like a math problem? Easy. There are big questions each actor has to find the answer to, and then they put those answers together and start plugging in variables to make them work. Recently, we discussed Objectives — one of the Big Four Acting Secrets for Wicked Presentations. Simply put, an actor's Objective is what their character wants in the piece. The variables we plug in are called Tactics- actions that the character takes to get what they want.
Ok, acting class dismissed.
Here's the thing, though: if you apply this approach to your presentation ideas, suddenly your not just saying some words, or trying to infuse false "emotion" into a speech; you've solved your equation beforehand. You know exactly what you want out of your presentation, and now you can figure out how you can get it.
How you get what you want out of your presentation is by using Tactics.
Tactics are always verbs: To excite, to engage, to warn, to threaten, to persuade, to plead, to enrapture... you get the idea. Once you've found out what you want ("I want to thrill this audience into switching to our new software system."), then you've got to find the Tactics you will use, step-by-step through your presentation to reach that Objective.
Here are some ways to start thinking about presentation Tactics:
1. You will be using your body, voice, AND content to embody and enact these Tactics. For example, say you wanted to propose to your significant other. While your words may be "Will you marry me?" your Objective is (literally) to engage them — to hear them say "Yes!" How will you do that? If your Tactic is to excite them, you may say "Will you marry me?" while jumping up and down, and raising your volume. If your Tactic is to woo them, you may get down on one knee and slowly say each word while making strong eye contact. Same text, different tactical approach.
2. Different Objectives come with their own set of Tactics. Let's continue using our example above. If your Objective is to engage this other person, then you probably wouldn't choose "to threaten" as a Tactic. (At least, I certainly hope not...) But you might try to surprise, to attract, or to bewitch.
Same goes for your presentations: If you're giving a presentation on financial loss, and your Objective is to calm your employees, you might not want to choose to frighten, to dismiss, or to belittle along the way. Those Tactics will not help you achieve your Objective.
3. You use a Tactic when it's useful, then change it for something else. You're not going to use just ONE Tactic for your entire presentation — just like you may have to solve for x,y, AND z in an equation, there are many of them and they vary. The best way to discover your Tactics is to analyze your content a bit and think through it: "For these three sentences, I'm really trying to guide my audience through this new information, but then for the next 10 sentences, I'm trying to challenge them to jump in and answer the questions I'm asking."
4. Be bold. Be specific. If the only thing you're thinking pre-presentation is "I want to get them to like this," then you're dead in the water. That lack of specificity will show in your delivery. However, if you approach your content with an energy of "I want to bowl my audience over by intriguing them with our new advances, enticing them with a great offer, etc." then your body and voice will follow suit to truly enact these ideas. The bolder, the more specific, the better.
We do this without thinking every day of our lives. We switch Tactics on a dime, to help us achieve everything from getting our boss to give us a day off to getting our spouse to take a vacation. Great acting mirrors this life-behavior through analysis — it's not merely blind emoting. Great presenting should do the same. Get closer to your content, and use these presentation ideas to truly get what you want.