Your reputation shouldn’t be left for less
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Before Jeff Caponigro’s career in public relations, he was a reporter and columnist for three Michigan newspapers.  One of the columns he wrote for the Midland Daily News was chosen for publication in the hardcover book, Best Sports Stories – 1978, along with the likes of some of the best sportswriters of the time from Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, the New York Times and others.  Jeff was inducted into Central Michigan University’s Journalism Hall of Fame in 2009.

  When your reputation is on the line, call for CPR  


You’ve been asked to make a public speech or make-or-break presentation for your business. Both are uncomfortable for you. That’s okay. A lot can be learned from Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Bryan Cranston, Javier Bardem, George Clooney and Hugh Jackman.

Here are 6 fail-safe ways to ensure your speech and presentation will have you succeeding like a Hollywood star:

  1. Embrace being out of your comfort zone.  Outside of his acting, although known to be a good guy, Robert De Niro is known for his shyness and disdain for small-talk. If you didn’t know better, you would think he would be the last person who would be one of the greatest actors of all time. But, instead of convincing himself he could never be a great actor he embraces the opportunity to go beyond his personal comfort zone.  Look forward to the opportunity to extend from your comfort zone and convince yourself that you (yes, YOU) can become one of the world’s best public speakers and presenters.

  2. Enjoy the adventure.  Don’t be afraid of a challenge you’ve never done before (or maybe not accomplished as well in the past as you wanted).  Look forward to the opportunity. Think about Al Pacino, who at 74 is still working hard and pushing himself to take on new challenges in his career. His iconic roles included Michael Corleone, Frank Serpico, Sonny Wortzik, Tony Montana, Ricky Roma and Tony D’Amato.  But he wanted a new challenge, so he put himself and his reputation on the line to play the role of Shylock in the Shakespeare production of Merchant of Venice – first in a 2004 film then later on Broadway, with eight shows a week no less.  Who cares if you’ve never made a public speech before or conducted a presentation as important as the upcoming one? Think about stretching yourself and how rewarding it will feel when you’ve accomplished something bold and new. 

  3. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.  The acclaimed actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis is known for an immense level of preparation for every role he accepts. He goes well beyond the preparation of even the best actors, who write character backstories, establish through-line goals, identify scene goals and character conflicts, analyze changes in beats of action and so on. Without extensive preparation, we don’t know if he would be just an average actor.  But he knows his preparation is a competitive advantage for him and has been the key to winning industry and fan adoration, three Academy Awards and a boatload of other recognition (including knighthood from Elizabeth II earlier this year). Think about Sir Daniel Day-Lewis when you have a public speech or presentation on the horizon. What will the audience want to hear from me? What do I want them to know? What do I want to achieve (i.e., my goal)? How can I structure the best speech or presentation possible? When will I rehearse it so I know it so well that I can deliver it instinctively – like a great actor – without getting in my head with negative or tangential thoughts that have me straying from achieving my goal? First-time or average public speakers will find that preparation can help diminish or eliminate altogether any anxiety and actually launch them to become renowned and respected in something many or most people find difficult.

  4. Listen intensely.  Great actors make acting look easy. And, the best actors are all intense listeners. Watch Bryan Cranston and Javier Bardem and what makes their acting so captivating. Yes, they deliver their lines in a realistic, believable and interesting manner but watch how they listen to those with whom are in the scenes with him.  On the other hand, watch actors who “look like they are acting” – and not very well. They most often are just reciting lines without regard to whom they are talking or any response they may be getting in return. Highly effective public speakers and presenters first will ask lots of questions when first provided the opportunity so they can prepare knowing exactly the audience’s needs and expectations. If possible, the best speakers will interact with some who will be in the audience before the speech or presentation to ask other questions. And, during the speech or presentation, it won’t be delivered mindlessly and over the tops of the audience but communicated with solid eye contact and connection – just as a great actor will engage with another in an important scene. Listen, connect, respond and engage.
  5. Act like you’re confident.  During my sessions to teach public speaking and presentations, I discuss the importance of body language, posture and proper breathing. The natural tendency for timid or inexperienced speakers is to wish they didn’t have to do it and can’t wait until it is over. The best speakers can’t wait to connect with the audience and looks forward to communicating the message and really connecting.  If you fall in the former and not the latter, try to convince yourself otherwise. It is sometimes said in training an actor, “The body is dumb; the mind is smart.” This means in acting that you can’t fake an action without your mind knowing it is fake and then showing it in the (likely amateur-looking) acting.  Great speakers express the confidence and charisma of George Clooney – strong posture, self-assured stride in the walk and a smile that radiates, “I got this.”  Now, none of us really knows how George Clooney feels on the inside. For all we know, he may very well feel insecure and unsure at times but we sure wouldn’t know it by looking at him. So, the next time you have to make an important speech or presentation, hold your shoulders and walk like George Clooney might if he were in your shoes. And, your mind likely will tell itself that all is well and you are going to be amazing.

  6. Have fun and shine with enthusiasm.  Just as acting like you are confident, tell yourself this is your opportunity to shine and surprise people  – maybe even show off a little. Consider Hugh Jackman. He always looks like he is enjoying himself – whether he is hosting the Academy Awards or Tony Awards, appearing on a talk show, or starring in a movie or on Broadway. He is immensely likeable and people gravitate toward him and his nature – which makes him popular with both fans and those in the industry who hire such talent.  In the 2011 movie Real Steel, I was cast as the former boxing training of Jackman’s character Charlie Kenton and the father of Evangeline Lilly’s character Bailey Tallet. I can tell you first-hand that Jackman is as personable, classy and engaging in person as he is on the screen or stage. Try to enjoy yourself and shine with the enthusiasm and engagement of Hugh Jackman the next time you make a public speech or important presentation. You surely will come across more effective and inherently more likeable. And, you likely will have a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

“The attention economy is not growing, which means we have to grab the attention that someone else has today.” ~ Brent Leary


Persuade a local City Council, which had previously turned down a developer's proposal to build an upscale shopping mall, that support by city residents exists to approve a new proposal for the development.


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