Let’s Talk a Little Bit About Rehearsal

You know those actors you really love?

The ones who make you cry. Who inhabit their characters so completely it’s hard for you to believe they’re real people. Who make you laugh with recognition and delight. The actors you seek out because they bring insight and thoughtfulness and humanity to whatever play, movie, or show they’re in.

Those actors speak lines someone else wrote, standing in front of cameras or on open-faced sets. Sometimes they’re not even acting with whoever is in the scene with them; they’re looking at a stand-in, or a green screen. They create truth right in front of us—authentic emotions and relationships and circumstances. 

Film actors can turn it on, whatever “it” is, and do take after take after take. Theatre actors do the same show night after night. Sometimes something huge is happening in their real, offstage life…and you’d never know it.

Rehearsal is what allows actors to be present, to listen, to “turn it on” in the moment. When the cameras are rolling, when the theatre lights come up, actors can’t wait for inspiration to strike. They have to simply begin, whether they’re “feeling it” or not.

As public speakers, our job is much, much easier. We are speaking our own words, being our own selves. But we can borrow the actor’s craft to help us prepare.

Say the words out loud. Say them when you’re alone in your office or your kitchen or your car. Imagine the audience you want to reach. Be very clear about why what you’re saying matters to you, and more importantly, why it matters to the people listening. Video yourself so you can see how your physical habits and behaviors support or sabotage your message.

Most important, rehearsal gives us the structure that supports us when we’re nervous, when we’re distracted, when the big boss turns up for the presentation unexpectedly. Actors (and dancers, and athletes, and musicians) rely on the repetitiveness and security of practice to carry them through the times when they feel shaky, preoccupied, or unsure. 

We can do that, too.

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