Actionable theatre techniques

Delivering presentations

July 27, 2022

“We must all do theatre—to find out who we are, and to discover who we could become.”
– Augusto Boal, Brazilian theatre practitioner

Theatre can be a life-changing experience and can help young leaders develop critical skills, like creativity, collaboration, communication, and confidence. So, it’s no surprise that leaders like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama were thespians at a young age.

Here are some techniques taken from theatre to help your next presentations run smoothly, no matter what comes your way.

Table of contents:

Coming Soon.

The Magic If

Konstantin Stanislavski is widely considered the “Father of Modern Acting.” One powerful technique he created is known as “The Magic If"—which is an actor’s ability to imagine their character in any given circumstance. This exercise allows the actor to brainstorm and contemplate how their character might react in any situation that arises.

This same principle can be applied to business presentations and strategic negotiations.

For example, imagine you’re about to start a presentation in front of key stakeholders and your computer crashes.

What would you do?

Some possible solutions:

  • Apologize for the interruption and use humor if the situation permits.
  • Carry on with the presentation while the issue is being resolved.
  • Use the downtime to address any questions.

What other solutions can you think up?

Exercises like this one—The Magic If—can help us prepare for unexpected situations so we can always stay in control.

The One-Line Story

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.”
– Plato, Greek philosopher

Games and exercises can be tremendously valuable to improve and enhance your public speaking skills. One exercise comes from American theatre coach, Viola Spolin, who created a number of “Theatre Games” that are internationally recognized as the basis of improvisational theatre.

For our purposes, we’re focusing on the exercise known as The One-Line or One-Word Story. The exercise is a simple game where two people take turns telling a story one sentence or one word at a time. The game often begins with, “Once upon a time…” and ends with, “The moral of the story is…”

Here's an example of a One-Word Story in action:

The goal of the game is to work with your partner to create a storyline with a clear beginning, middle, and end, along with distinct characters.

How does this exercise help?

The theatre game compels us to communicate our ideas quickly and clearly. It also helps us think on our feet, drive conversations in our favor, and practice our ability to work well with others.

Add another dimension to your presentation preparation with these theatre techniques! Continue upleving your public speaking skills by mastering the art of persuasion.