Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience

Course No. 5986
Professor Melanie M. Long, M.F.A.
Kennesaw State University
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3.8 out of 5
32 Reviews
62% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 5986
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Build a performance triangle between your mental focus, physical life, and speaking voice.
  • numbers Learn how to balance your body while moving (and at rest) to appear confident.
  • numbers Delve into voice and speech habits that will help you deliver a commanding performance - whether whispering or shouting.
  • numbers 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
 |  Average 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's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • 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, M.F.A.
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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Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to Any Audience is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 32.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I am a retired military officer, military chaplain, trainer, consultant, and public motivational and personal growth speaker. To get over the fear of public speaking I attended the Barter Theater of Virginia before joining the army. The army sent me to Princeton university for a course to learn about television speaking. At times my audiences have numbered over five thousand. I think this is one of the best courses to which I have been exposed during my career. I would recommend this course for any public speaker
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mastering Stage Presence: How to I have to say I was overwhelmed with the wealth of information presented. I wasn't expecting such in depth knowledge in so many areas. Melanie's inviting personality, politeness and attention to detail made it all the more attractive. It was well done, well worth the time spent and thorough. I will continue to review sections of the course in days ahead. A bargain! Great job!
Date published: 2019-08-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Limited Application... I excitedly purchased this class with the hopes it would help me improve my presentation skills. While I can see the instructor is very knowledgeable, as I sampled several of the classes, I realized it was an extended acting class. Better for those who look for that focus, but not for me.
Date published: 2019-07-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wished for More Non-Theatre Content I was hoping for more content that was related to specific singing performance, public speaking, and non-theatre entertainment presentation. Instruction is good, but I felt much of the content was padded . . . made pretty obvious points take a long time. And suffered from one basic teaching teaching no-no over and over again. She kept saying "Not to forget" when she should have been saying "Be sure to remember."
Date published: 2019-05-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Misleading title, and unbelievable error The title is Mastering Stage Presence: How to Present to any audience" but it's essentially a course for actors, with the occasional throwaway line such as "this will also help you in giving a speech or interview." I must say I have noticed a trend in Great Courses' titles, but this was an egregious example. If you are interested in learning how to give a speech, this course will most definitely not be of any help. The 24 "lectures" could have been reduced to 12 or maybe fewer without any loss of actual information. Lastly, I heard the "professor" say something that awoke me from my stupor. I rewound to make sure I had heard correctly. Then I looked in the course guide. It is actually printed in the guide: "then, there's the rise of Christianity from around 300 BC." That's an amazing trick to have Christianity 300 years "Before Christ". How can anyone--left alone a "professor" actually say those words without realizing the error? Sorry, this is the worst course I have ever bought. I kept going hoping eventually there would be something of value. After a (very short) while, I found myself constantly fast-forwarding because I simply couldn't take it. For each bad review I give, I write a good one, and I have a five-star review of Damrosch on "The Decline and Fall".
Date published: 2018-09-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mastering Stage Presence I like this course and I'm enjoying it because of the professor representing it in a very well organized way!
Date published: 2018-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better Presenter! I bought this to help me be a better presenter at work, but it helped me with my people skills even more. The lecture that discussed perspective was a real eye opener for me. I enjoyed the program and am feeling more comfortable and dynamic making presentations at work.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from For me,fluff. The marketing of this course was the most effective part of the course. Perhaps someone pursuing experience as an actor may get something out of it. As a performing musician, public speaker, and teacher , I found the course valueless.
Date published: 2017-12-05
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