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The opening night: Taking command of the stage

Julie Hansen //August 10, 2011//

The opening night: Taking command of the stage

Julie Hansen //August 10, 2011//

Each presentation is a new beginning-an opening night, if you will.A performance, whether on the theater or business stage, is a temporal and fleeting thing. Yet, it can leave a vivid impression on your audience long after you have exited that stage. The client or group you’re in front of today did not see your flawless, passionate performance of yesterday.

They can judge you only on the present. So how do you consistently deliver a fresh, powerful performance day after day, client after client? Just as an actor learns to re-create the magic night after night, audience after audience, you can also learn to deliver a confident, compelling presentation
each time by using proven acting techniques to take command of the business stage.

Acting techniques for taking command of the business stage:

• Communicating with intention.
• Speaking with animation.
• Giving nonverbal cues.
• Adding vocal variety.


The first time I stepped onto the stage, I was overcome with fear and self-consciousness. “Take command of the stage!” the director shouted. “Own the spotlight!” I immediately proceeded to make my actions bigger and more dramatic. I moved about at random, bouncing from one side of the stage to the other. I practically shouted my lines and over-emphasized every other word.

As you can guess, this is not what he meant. It took me months to understand his direction, but it doesn’t have to take you that long. In order to grab the audience’s attention and get them to buy into the “reality” of your role, your business, or your product, you have to inhabit your space with complete conviction and confidence. With the same techniques I used to command the stage, I started winning more business, breaking sales records and presenting confidently to Fortune 500 companies.


By this point, you will have clarified your intentions and become clear about what you are saying and why, but somewhere between your thoughts and the recipient’s brain, the message may be getting diluted, miscommunicated, or not expressed at all. Perhaps your voice is hard to follow, your words imprecise, your body language distracting, or you display a lack of conviction. Relying on your words to do all of your selling is a quick route to being out-sold.

Actors need to be experts at effective communication. They know that communication is based on the need to be heard by their partners, typically in the hopes that it will impact their feelings, attitude, or behavior. It is more than just sending out words; it is sending out feelings as well. As sellers, we need to remember that communication is a circle, not a straight line. It is not enough to feel as if you’re communicating if your prospect doesn’t receive it, or misinterprets it, or is not compelled to act on it.

The intention of our words needs to be supported by our physical presence. Just as we should always be reading our recipients for nonverbal cues, they are reading us for cues as well. Prospects get confused, or worse, suspicious when our body language is not congruent with our words. So how do we make sure that our outsides match our insides? Let’s take a closer look at the elements that make up our physical delivery and how an actor approaches each.


No, I don’t mean talking like a cartoon character. I am referring to the pre-Disney dictionary definition of animated: full of life, vivacity, and spirit. Uta Hagen defines animated talking as having our words literally “spring from us, from our body, mind, and soul, with spontaneity, urgency, and inevitability.” In order for the words to “spring from our body, mind and soul” with “urgency,” as Ms. Hagen suggests, our need to talk must come from three core beliefs:

1. We have something important to say.
2. We must say it now.
3. We must be the ones to say it.

If you are unsure or vague about any of these beliefs, your delivery will lack commitment, passion, and urgency.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from ACT LIKE A SALES PRO: How to Command the Business Stage and Dramatically Increase Your Sales With Proven Acting Techniques © 2010 Julie Hansen. Published by Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.
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