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Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience

Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience

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Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience

Course No. 5986
Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing Melanie M. Long, University of Minnesota
Kennesaw State University
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4.2 out of 5
20 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 5986
Video Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • Build a performance triangle between your mental focus, physical life, and speaking voice.
  • Learn how to balance your body while moving (and at rest) to appear confident.
  • Delve into voice and speech habits that will help you deliver a commanding performance - whether whispering or shouting.
  • Get tips on how to use stage fright to your advantage and how to work an engaged audience.

Course Overview

Stage presence—the ability to connect powerfully and authentically with an audience—is something we often associate with performers. Great actors, musicians, and public speakers all seem to have it. But this same capacity is something we all need and use in many areas of life, both professional and personal.

Any time you present yourself to others, whether in a speech, a public presentation, a meeting, an interview, a class, or a negotiation, your success depends on far more than the words you say. Your ability to communicate, to inspire, or to convince is heavily influenced by the way you carry yourself, the way you speak, the way you express what you’ve decided to say, and the way you connect with your listeners and the space you’re in. In any situation where you present yourself, your way of being and interacting with your listeners—your presence—is equally as important as what you say.

But is presence something you’re born with—an innate talent—or are there ways to develop it? Can presence, in fact, be learned?

As you’ll discover in this illuminating and highly practical course, the answer is an unqualified “yes.” The skills of poise, physical ease in public, clarity of speaking, and engaging, effective communication are well understood, and can be practiced and developed in ways that will greatly improve your success in presenting yourself in any setting.

Presence: A Learnable Skill

Drawing on the skills and techniques used by professional actors and public speakers, you can learn to offer your best self to the world, by cultivating self-awareness, mental focus, and the freedom of your body and voice. Whether your goal is to act on the stage or screen, speak at a public gathering, present at a business meeting, or even to be in top form over the dinner table, expressing yourself at your very best is a practical and reachable goal.

In Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience, Melanie Martin Long, a celebrated teacher of acting and directing, leads you in an in-depth exploration of the skills—and the joy—of performance and self-presentation, which apply to any situation where you present yourself to others.

Like golf, tennis, or painting, learning performance technique involves building one skill on another. In the course of 24 interactive lecture/practice sessions, you’ll learn core principles of modern acting technique that allow you to define and express your purpose for presenting. You’ll work systematically to become conscious of your own physical and vocal habits. And you’ll practice the techniques of freeing your body and voice for fuller self-expression.

Building on these practices, you’ll integrate your new skills by walking through the experience of an audition or interview, and then by exploring the process of preparing a performance or public appearance. Finally, you’ll learn how to channel nervous energy into effective performance, how to draw your audience in, and how to keep their attention through the end of your time onstage. With remarkable clarity and thoroughness, this course teaches you the what and how of presence and self-presentation, on stage and in life.

Hands-On Training in the Skills of Performance

In these dynamic learning sessions, you’ll study and practice the three building blocks of performance technique:

  • mental focus and preparation;
  • your physical life; and
  • voice and speech.

This is hands-on, high-level work in which you’ll explore all of the mental and physical resources that go into an effective stage performance or presentation. Far more useful than any book could be, the video sessions allow you to experience the work directly, practicing physical and vocal workouts in studio sessions with Professor Long.

First, you’ll learn that what drives a successful performance is the clear pursuit of your objective (or, in acting, the character’s objective), which unfolds moment by moment through specific actions.

  • Using characters from Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, study acting pedagogue Uta Hagen’s “Nine Questions,” which crystallize a dramatic character’s circumstances, motivations, and objectives, and see how these factors propel their behavior onstage.
  • Learn how to specifically apply the principles of purpose and objectives to both dramatic scripts and public speaking, giving your performance or presentation crucial clarity and focus.

Next, you’ll work to develop physical freedom and ease onstage—a vital asset for presenting yourself in public.

  • Drawing on the discoveries of movement pioneers F. Mathias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Rudolph Laban, practice movement exercises used by professional actors. These will help you bring your body into natural alignment, release unnecessary physical tension, and move with balance, spontaneity, and freedom.
  • Stage Savvy: A core element of skillful performance and stage deportment, learn how to take focus onstage, as well as how to give focus and create visual variety through physical positioning, movement, rhythm, and balance.

Finally, you’ll work extensively on vocal technique, expanding and freeing your vocal resources over eight lecture/practice sessions on voice and speech.

  • Explore each facet of vocal technique for performance, from expansive, natural breathing to sound production, resonation, and inflection, as well as how to project your voice to fill the performance space.
  • Exercise and strengthen the muscles of speech, work out your vocal articulators through speaking written texts, and study pace and phrasing.

Discover the Joy and Satisfaction of Performing

Professor Long, a highly respected theatre artist and performance coach, brings deep technical knowledge as well as extraordinary insight and skill as a teacher to this unique, interactive program. By both demonstrating and leading you in exercises to enlarge your expressive and creative horizons, she teaches performance technique as a path of self-awareness and physical freedom. As just one remarkable example, she illustrates, citing Harvard studies, how practicing physical “power” stances changes your mental outlook and body chemistry, boosting testosterone and lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Emphasizing experiential learning, the course is designed for you to view over and over for extra practice.

In completing the learning process, the final sessions take you through the application of the skills you’ve learned:

  • Auditions and Interviews: Learn a complete approach to presenting yourself in high-stakes situations, from your entrance and introduction to your self-presentation, its aftermath, and your exit.
  • Preparing a performance or presentation: Explore how to systematically prepare and rehearse a stage performance or public appearance, from initial exploration and practice of your material to run-throughs and final dress/technical rehearsals.
  • Dealing effectively with nerves or “stage fright”: Grasp how key principles of mental focus such as releasing self-judgment and focusing on your fellow performers or audience can make your nerves work for you; and
  • Holding your audience’s attention: Discover how claiming your power onstage, keeping your performance simple, and using variety allows you to sustain your performance from start to finish.

Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience takes you deeply into the practical skills of performing and self-presentation, teaching you each element in a highly engaging, step-by-step learning system. With the skills you’ll develop, you can confidently step forward as a performer or presenter, offering your best self to the world in any setting.

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24 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Performance Triangle
    Consider how people learn stage presence - a process of cultivating self-awareness and practical skills in an environment of trust and support. Begin with the three building blocks of performance technique - a "triangle" formed by mental focus, your physical life, and your speaking voice. Create a safe and comfortable physical space for the work you'll do. x
  • 2
    Modern Acting Technique
    Discover how modern acting technique is built around a commitment to enact a specific purpose onstage. Then explore two psychological approaches to performance: performance from the inside out" and performance from the "outside in." Begin to look at ways to find purpose in dramatic material, and also as it applies to public speaking and presenting. " x
  • 3
    Building a Character
    Now learn an effective system for clarifying and connecting with your purpose onstage, or in front of any audience. Using the characters of Blanche and Stanley from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, explore acting teacher Uta Hagen's "Nine Questions," which elucidate a character's identity, given circumstances, and motivations. x
  • 4
    Analyzing Backstory and Motivation
    Continuing with the Nine Questions, learn how a dramatic character's circumstances affect their behavior, and how actors use a character's obstacles and tactics to overcome them in pursuing the character's purpose onstage. Then, see how to use the Nine Questions in public speaking, using the example of a famous speech by Barbara Bush. x
  • 5
    Identifying Your Unconscious Habits
    The "habitual self" is the complex of physical and vocal habits that we adopt as a response to our life experience. Through the stages of life, observe how human beings develop habitual physical patterns that may be limiting, and how awareness of these patterns serves freedom of expression and the needs of performance. x
  • 6
    Recovering Your Natural Alignment
    Learn the principles of the Alexander Technique, a system of movement training designed to achieve natural physical alignment and freedom from unnecessary tension. Explore the relationship between the head, neck, and spine, and practice a series of exercises to bring awareness and freedom to basic movements such as sitting and standing. x
  • 7
    The Body Balanced at Rest
    In this course, "balance" is a state of equilibrium produced by an even distribution of weight, through which we can direct our energy in the most effective ways. Begin to balance the body in a lying position, practicing small movements that create release in the connective tissue of the shoulders, hips, and joints. x
  • 8
    The Body Balanced in Motion
    Beginning with a physical warm-up to bring freedom to the joints, experiment with vertical, horizontal, lateral, and sagittal planes of movement, and how using all the planes in performance gives visual and emotional variety. Find ways of moving through space with balance and freedom, and observe how ways of moving affect and evoke emotional states. x
  • 9
    Intent, Purpose, and Character
    Learn about the work of movement pioneer Rudolph Laban, who created a system for understanding and notating qualities of movement. Explore eight fundamental movement types, which describe the range of direct and indirect forms of movement we use in daily living, and consider how we can shape our physical movements to tell stories. x
  • 10
    Playing Status Relationships
    How do our movements and gestures communicate our purpose? Study how our interactions with others are governed by our status or power position within the relationship. In life and onstage, observe how we "play" status with others through specific physical tactics, stances, and gestures that convey our intentions and further our objectives. x
  • 11
    Stage Movement Savvy
    Discover the physical techniques that stage performers use to direct the audience's focus and maintain visual interest. Learn how to take and give focus onstage, using body position and orientation, as well as movement and stillness. Learn also to create visual variety through stage geometry, as well as the use of physical planes, balance, and rhythm. x
  • 12
    The Glorious Human Voice
    In this first session on vocal technique, take a tour of the physical mechanisms of sound and speech. Practice free and expansive breathing, and experiment with the principles of phonation (sound production) and resonation (sound amplification). Conclude by exploring articulation - how speech shapes sound into words. x
  • 13
    Accessing the Breath
    Continue with an extended session on breath, the source of sound. Begin with a full-body warm-up to release any physical tension that may obstruct sound production. In a neutral, lying position, practice free, clear breathing, using deep, natural breath to connect with the voice and to access vocal power without creating tension. x
  • 14
    Your Vocal Energy
    Building on our previous breath work, experiment with the range of your vocal potential, letting go of any preconceived notion of how you should sound. Using text from the Prologue to Shakespeare's Henry V, invoke the element of play in exploring tone, sustained breathing, vocal variety, and free, spontaneous vocal expression. x
  • 15
    Vocal Dynamics: Your Best Voice
    What makes a voice expressive or lackluster, rich or strident? Explore the parameters of resonance (sound placement), pitch, and volume. Understand how they give your voice its overall quality, and experiment with altering them at will. Also delve into inflection and intonation, see how they convey meaning, and learn about vocal projection. x
  • 16
    Clear, Energized Speech
    Now study the tools that make speech clear and energized. Consider how vowels carry the feeling behind words, and practice clearly pronouncing our language's 20 vowel sounds, including pure vowels and diphthongs. Continue with consonants, both plosives and continuants, building awareness of how consonants communicate meaning and create emphasis. x
  • 17
    The Muscles of Speech
    Here, exercise and strengthen the muscles we use in shaping words, an important practice for clear expression in both professional and everyday life. After warming up the breath and voice, work out your vocal articulators using combinations of consonants and vowel sounds, followed by practice phrases and tongue twisters for enunciation and clarity. x
  • 18
    Vocal Color: Pacing and Phrasing
    Learn to keep your audience engaged using the rhythms of speech. Begin by studying pace, how vocal pace affects listeners, and how variety of pace aids clarity and communication. Then learn about phrasing - how you group words and punctuate your speech with pauses - and ways to improve phrasing and change limiting speech habits. x
  • 19
    Accents and Dialects
    As performers or public speakers, we may at times need to either acquire or reduce a dialect or accent. Study the process of adopting a new way of speaking: learn to place your voice where it needs to resonate, incorporate new ways of shaping sounds, and find the intonation and rhythm of the new speech pattern. x
  • 20
    Acing the Audition
    The principles of auditioning in the theatre apply equally to interviews of any kind. Learn a comprehensive approach to presenting yourself in high-stakes settings. Study each phase of the process, from entering the room and introducing yourself to doing your audition or interview, the moments after, and your exit. x
  • 21
    Preparing for the Performance
    Building on all the work you've done, this lecture takes you through the rehearsal process step by step. For both stage performance and public speaking, begin with hands-on exploration and practice of your material in small sections, moving gradually to run-throughs and final dress rehearsals, approximating your performance conditions as completely as possible. x
  • 22
    Using Stage Fright Energy
    Look closely into the phenomenon of nervous energy or stage fright. Study key principles of mental focus for performing at your best, such as putting your performance experience in perspective, subduing self-judgment, using mental images of success, focusing on your partner or audience, and pinpointing specific fears. x
  • 23
    Working the Crowd with Confidence
    Connecting with your audience and holding their attention is essential to an effective performance or presentation. Here, grasp three strategies for sustaining attention: learn to claim your power and set the scene; keep your structure, language, and movement simple; and engage your viewers from start to finish through variety and creativity. x
  • 24
    Stage Presence: A Way of Life
    Conclude by contemplating what great performers do, and how presence can be a way of life. Consider how master performers engage and question the world by reflecting what they see, telling the truth, taking risks, transforming what they receive from others into something new, and finding what gives them the greatest joy. x

Lecture Titles

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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Melanie M. Long

About Your Professor

Melanie M. Long, University of Minnesota
Kennesaw State University
Professor Melanie Martin Long is a professional theatre director, private performance coach, and part-time Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The College of William & Mary in Theatre and English, Professor Long holds a certificate from the Alliance Theatre Acting Program in Atlanta and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She completed...
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Reviews

Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 20.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Satisfied I am very pleased with the Mastering Stage Presence DVD course. I discovered this program advertised in Success magazine, and it immediately piqued my interest; I recently joined a Toastmasters International Club to improve my communication skills. This course was being offered at a terrific discounted price, so I did not hesitate to take advantage of the offer. The majority of the lectures I've watched (8 of 24), do apply to acting, however as clearly detailed in the advertisement, the content completely relates to the different aspects of communicating. Therefore, even if you don't plan to act, the knowledge you will glean from this well-done presentation is priceless, in my opinion. Ms. Long is very interesting and pleasant to listen to, and her exercises have been extremely helpful. I look forward to continuing with the rest of the dvds!
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lifetime of tools for almost any situation This is a course that delivers far more than it promises. Modeling the art (and science) she addresses, Professor Long teaches skills that serve pretty much every situation and occasion. There's no place where it can't help to know more about presenting yourself well and confidently and with some style, and no, it's not artifice to do so. It's just bringing out your own natural capabilities. The course is fun and fascinating. Here's something I took away from the first lecture that's already changed much in my circumstances: "Focus on what you're doing, not how well you're doing it." Cool stuff!
Date published: 2017-06-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointing This course was advertised as a public speaking class and it was really an acting class. Not what I was looking for.
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mostly for Actors Mostly for Actors Although the title bills this course as presenting to any audience, it is taught by Melanie Long, a director and drama coach, and is predominantly oriented toward actors. There is also some spin-off for public speakers, which had been my interest. However, the clear emphasis is for actors. This is available only in video and deservedly so. In fact, it requires more attention than most Great Courses because there are exercises (e. g., breathing exercises and speaking exercises) that you need to devote your attention to in order to get true value from the course. This is not a course that you can play in the background while driving or doing chores. Acting topics include the performance triangle (mental focus, voice and speech, and body), building a character, using props, stage movement fundamentals, and auditioning. These have only tangential applications for public speakers. General topics include voice and speaking including exercises to improve each, and working the crowd. Other reviewers were critical of the instructor, Ms. Long, for her presentation style but I was not bothered by it. Rather I thought that she has a pleasing style and holds the student’s attention well. She communicates clearly. This course is useful primarily for those interested in acting although there is some spillover benefit for public speakers including teachers.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Big Disappointment This is the only course I've returned because it was way below my expectations. The presenter is a pleasant lady but is not up to the task. The topics are just common-sense observations made into lessons by dragging out the dialog. She spends a half-hour speaking on what should take 5 minutes. Her references are all about herself and her experience, her family, her beliefs. No props, no examples by video or otherwise, only the lone speaker and some occasional silly exercises. After falling asleep watching Lesson 5, I spot-checked ahead and had to admit that this course is not worthwhile. The topic sounds helpful but as presented it isn't. If it were completely redone and shortened to a 12-lecture series with a more dynamic professor, perhaps someone could get some benefit out of it. Not i, not now.
Date published: 2016-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great value and learning experience. This course methodically moves through all aspects of "how people view you and what you can do about it". There is no magic here, just useful, easy to absorb exercises and methods. There is the added benefit some of the content will improve your health.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super Useful and Comprehensive Skill Teaching I will buy ANY course this lady produces. She is beyond fantastic. The content is extremely useful for anyone who needs to speak in front of people. I am Advanced Gold at Toastmasters, and this course is taking me to a whole new level. One of the most useful and skill building courses I purchased. If she does any other course, like maybe "Understanding Dance and Ballet", I want to pre-order. Thanks to her, now I see live theater in a more understanding light.
Date published: 2016-07-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good for the mind.... and body! As someone who has to spend a lot of time in front of audiences, my hope was this course would contain at least a few fresh insights about stage presence that would improve my public speaking. At first glance, the course appeared too comprehensive and geared to actors, however with a little perseverance I soon discovered the course to be a trove of valuable information. In addition to exploring other elements of stagecraft, Prof. Long also focuses on the numerous small things that collectively give one "Stage Presence" as opposed to merely being on stage. This can be anything from posture, to gait, to breathing, to the use of voice, stretching etc. (It may be the only Great Course where one needs to be wearing loose clothing to appreciate its merits) Unlike other instructors, Prof. Long has what I would call a holistic approach to the subject. "Stage Presence" is not and should not be far removed from "Life Presence". Standing up straight, breathing correctly, speaking clearly and being relaxed are important traits that should not be reserved solely for the stage, everyone should master these vastly under appreciated life skills, regardless of motive. Having "Life Presence" is a reward in and of itself. Master "Life Presence" and one will find the heavy lifting of "Stage Presence" has already been done. A rather simple but powerful idea. Maybe not for everyone but overall, a unique, informative, fun Great Course.
Date published: 2016-01-07
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