Kerri Garbis is the CEO & Founder of Ovation - a communication skills training firm specializing in Professional Presence and Speaker Development. Kerri is also a professional actress, and with her company, she has trained numerous business professionals from some of the USA's top financial companies on presentations skills and storytelling.

In this episode with her, we discuss public speaking, stage anxiety and how to overcome it, and the significance and power of rehearsing.

How she got in the presentation industry

It happened by chance, according to Kerri. She was working as a professional actor in New York when a friend asked for her help with stage presence. She then hung around with other business people because of her friend. When she asked them how they prepared for their presentations, she saw that they prepared in a very contradictory way from what she knew as an actor.

And her spark was lit there. She thought that maybe professional actors have something to say to business professionals.

What can actors teach business people

Nerves are human. And despite common belief, actors are human as well, Kerri joked. They experience nerves as well.

Although giving a speech differs from reading a script, both require similar preparation. In the same way, we all want to connect with our audience, move them in some way and tell good stories.

Understanding oneself and developing self-awareness, according to Kerri, is one of the most essential things for a speaker to do. It’s a cornerstone of acting, and Kerri feels it’s also a cornerstone of effective public speaking and strong presentation skills. You have to know how you are showing up and what you look and sound like and making sure that you are not doing anything that is distracting from your message.

How actors build self-awareness and how you can do that

Actors learn their self-awareness through their training programs or acting classes. First-year students are not even permitted to play or appear in anything yet because they want them to study the craft of getting to know themselves. They have to build that awareness of themselves and get rid of any tendencies that they could reveal when they portray themselves as a new character or person.

Rehearsing with a mentor or coach is something that both actors and speakers may benefit from. In general, get yourself to rehearse. Getting nervous is a human condition, but when your heart flutters and you stutter, it can feel like you are being attacked. Rehearsing can help you control your nerves.

Can you stop nervousness and what you can do to calm down

When dealing with speakers, Kerri’s objective isn’t to make it go away. You won’t be able to eliminate anxiousness, but you can make it work for you. Get it to a place where it is not so distracting. The goal is to get to a point where you are not consumed by how nervous you are.

To begin, figure out what happens to you when you’re worried and address it. It might be psychological, such as losing attention, or external, such as sweating or repetitive physical activity. When you know what happens, you can either eliminate or reduce the trigger. For example, if you get a dry mouth when you’re anxious, keep some water nearby.

A solid rehearsal may be able to alleviate some of your nerves. Moreover, consider establishing a routine or a ritual to help you cope with or avoid the source of your uneasiness.

How to rehearse well

It’s critical to practice adequately and with accountability. Rehearsing is frequently misunderstood as just repetition, but it is more about establishing productive behaviors. Say your presentation out loud, but with a purpose in mind, because repeating it will just reinforce any negative habits you may already have. You have to figure out what is not working and replace it.

Kerri knows that business professionals do not have infinite time to rehearse, but there are ways to truncate the process and get it done efficiently. The goal is to get your presentation delivery habits into your muscle memory so that you don’t have to worry about what your face is doing, how you’re breathing, or where your hands are while you’re giving a presentation. This way, your sole responsibility will be to deliver the story to your audience.

How many times should you rehearse

Kerri stated that actors rehearse an hour for every minute they will be on stage. She realizes that this isn’t always achievable in business and real life. Not every speaker has 60 hours to devote to practice.

You’ll be good if you can say out loud your presentation three times in rehearsal, especially if you do it with clear goals in mind and responsibility. If you can’t, at least get in two times. If that isn’t achievable, concentrate on your opening, conclusion, and specific transitions, since these are the most crucial places to rehearse.


Check out Kerri Garbis’ company Ovation here. You can connect with or follow Kerri also on her LinkedIn or Facebook page.

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