Learning your lines

Many years ago I met a potential facilitator in Melbourne, who was an experienced trainer and presenter. Turned out his main gig was acting, but like many actors the periods between acting work were long and many. So he put his talents into good use, training people in communication and presentation skills.

In talking to him about his profession, he said all actors spend time learning their lines so well that they don’t need to think about them. Only then can they put the words aside and focus on the craft of performance. He also said that’s why “soaps” don’t often have great acting, because the sheer volume of episodes means the actors never have time to learn the lines as well.

Fast forward to last week. I’m in an audience of about 30 people at a forum for senior executives, business owners and the like. There’s a speaker booked for a 60 minute session on a subject that sounds of interest. As an audience we’re onside before he starts.

He gets up and from the first word it’s clear that he’s reading from a script, with frequent references to his notes. Within 5 minutes his wooden performance had turned off most of the audience, me included.

The lesson? Learn your lines. Like my actor colleague, you will never be able to focus on the performance if you haven’t nailed what you are going to say. Too often I see people who could be good presenters, under perform in a presentation simply because they never gave themselves time to prepare and learn their lines.

As the old line goes:

Fail to prepare……prepare to fail

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