FROM STAGE TO PODIUM
I came to the profession of speaking after
20 years of acting. While I didn’t accomplish my goal of becoming a movie star, I
did become an accomplished stage actor.
When you’re in a play, your job is to
bring your character and the story to life.
The character’s lines and stage blocking are like a blank canvas—they are the
starting point. Your interpretations and
emotions are the paints and brushes you
use to create the masterpiece—to make
your character come alive. The set gives
you an environment within which you
move around and play out your scenes.
It’s a three-dimensional experience.
The theater audience sits only a few
feet away from the stage, but as far as
the actors are concerned, the audience
doesn’t exist. The actors are in a separate reality—another time and place.
Actors know that if they do their jobs
properly, the audience will come to
them. As a professional speaker, I know
this to be true as well.
Many years ago I discovered that if
I acted out important moments in my
stories, like an actor in a play, those
moments became more powerful. I call
these acting moments “IN moments,”
because I step back in time to when
the story really happened. The IN
moments only last a short amount of
time, and then I continue with the narration—the past-tense language that
carries the story forward. Because I
don’t talk about emotions, but I go
back in time and relive them, the audience comes to me, just as we all do
when we are watching a good movie.
YOUR CLIENTS AREN’T LOOKING
JUST FOR GREAT STORYTELLERS...
THEY’RE LOOKING FOR RESULTS.
Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist
who studies the workings of the brain.
In his book, Mirroring People, he asks,
“Why do we give ourselves over to
emotion during the carefully crafted,
heartrending scenes in certain movies?
Because mirror neurons in our brains
re-create for us the distress we see on
the screen. We have empathy for the fic-
tional characters—we know how they’re
feeling—because we literally experience
the same feelings ourselves.”
Aha! Eureka! At last I’ve found a
scientific explanation for what I’ve
been teaching my students for the last
15 years: mirror neurons. Your audi-
ence members don’t just listen to your
stories; they see images and feel emo-
tions. They actually experience the story
as if it’s happening to them, IF the story
is brilliantly crafted and performed.
Are you narrating your emotions, or
are you feeling them while you present
“One important area of research,”
Medina says, “is the effect of emotion
on learning. Emotionally arousing
events tend to be better remembered
than neutral events. They persist
much longer in our memories and are
recalled with greater accuracy than
Now think back to the movie you
identified. Why did you pick that movie
out of the hundreds you’ve seen in your
life? I’m going to bet it is because that
movie was emotionally arousing and
therefore more meaningful and memo-
rable than the others?
My Story Theater Method is a
synthesis of storytelling form and structure, subtle acting and comedy skills,
and message branding. The structure
makes the story easy to follow; the
acting moments draw the audience into
the visual experience and stimulate