Learn to perform like a Hollywood star

March 2, 2007

Academics are being encouraged to enliven their lectures by adopting acting methods used by film stars such as Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson.

A workshop run by a classically trained actor offers staff a grounding in "voice and performance in lecturing and presenting". It advocates techniques inspired partly by the Stanislavsky method of acting employed by some of Hollywood's biggest names.

Rather than simply focusing on voice projection and other standard aspects of lecturing, the workshop - run by Talking Shop Training at 16 universities around the country - encourages participants to get in touch with their instinctive feelings to connect with members of their "audience" and motivate them to listen and to learn.

Steward Theobald, director of Talking Shop Training, explained: "Often, there is a misunderstanding about what acting is, and many people think of it as something artificial.

"My feeling is that all lectures and presentations should be real. What you feel your audience will feel."

He added: "The most important part of any lecture is about being yourself in front of an audience and then allowing yourself to flex your style to portray different emotions, in order to take your audience on an emotional as well as an intellectual journey."

To help academics put this into practice, the workshop "explores how anxiety can affect the ability to communicate effectively and utilises exercises to increase confidence, release tension and find one's true voice as a lecturer", he said.

Joanna Jemal, a senior teaching assistant in forensic psychology at Leicester University recently attended one of the workshops. She described the class as a "very positive and helpful experience", although she was less convinced than some of her colleagues by a few of the confidence-building techniques.

She said: "It's different for each individual. Some of my colleagues reacted better than me to the part of the workshop where we were asked to visualise negative and then positive scenarios, so that we were left on an emotional high to help us build our confidence.

"I think you have to be fairly susceptible to the power of suggestion for that to work."

But she added that, on the whole, the workshop did leave her with an enhanced sense of stage presence that could help improve her lecturing skills.

"I can see how it must work in the acting world - it really does help you to get into the part," she said.

Details: www.effectivespeaking.com

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