June 1, 2017

From Acting Class to Public Speaking

Three Things , Presentation Tips , Public Speaking , Faculty

When Buckley Coach Emily Padgett isn't working with us, you might find her acting on stage or directing a play. She also has a lot of experience teaching theater to young people. In May, she led a program for sixth graders as the artist in residence at Dent Middle School in Columbia, S.C.

Emily leading her young actors through an exercise.

We asked if there were public speaking lessons we could take away from her experience. Here's what Emily says:

1. Don't be afraid to look silly.

"Sixth graders are in this glorious sweet spot of not caring if they do something silly in front of their friends. They were willing to try any crazy exercise I threw at them, from tongue twisters and exaggerated poses to making up commercials about everyday objects."

"We could all use a little more whimsy in our lives," she says, "so when preparing a presentation, don't be afraid to step outside of your norm. The audience will be glad you did."

When museum characters competed to attract visitors, the value of a strong opening became obvious.

2. A strong opening can work wonders.

We teach this at The Buckley School, and Emily noted that the same thing was true with her class. "The project I was working on with my students involved a living history 'museum' of characters that came to life to give short historical monologues. The students who exploded to life with strong words, vivid imagery, and bold statements drew the most visitors," she says. "Some visitors even walked away from a less enthralling character to check out one with a powerful open."

From a public speaking standpoint, Emily points out it's not that different. "An audience can walk away from your presentation mentally, all too easily. Our project was a great reminder of why you've got to lock them in."

Emily's class ready to bring the museum to life.

3. Surround yourself with good speakers.

"I noticed quickly that if we had a couple of really creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, that easily rubbed off on the rest of the group. One brilliant improv performance led to ten others. On the flip side, the more boring classes just kept delivering mediocre performances," says Emily.

She sees ways to apply this to speaking. "Surround yourself with strong speakers, watch good speakers on YouTube, attend events with talented presenters. Their creativity will rub off on you!" 

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