Acting Techniques: Instant Presence

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This section will deal with the subject of presence for teachers using acting techniques in two ways. Firstly there are some videos on what I refer to as 'Instant Presence', a series of tricks if you like, which can radically alter the way that your classes perceive you. I suggest that you read the sections on status before watching the videos as it is vital to get an understanding of what high status is and why you might want to use this acting technique to help you.

The section section deals with presence in more general terms and focuses on the work of Patsy Rodenburg, who uses acting techniques and voice work with actors to create presence.


Below is a short screencast that explains how I use acting techniques in the training courses that I run for new and experienced teachers . The programme that I used for these is called Jing and I highly recommend it!

In my workshops, I try to get a before and after effect to show teachers the difference that using acting techniques to create a strong, high status persona can make. I focus on using high status language, such as the phrase 'you need to..' and I reinforce the idea of speaking 'slower and lower' as a general rule. Here's one short example.


Patsy Rodenberg is currently the Director of Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and until recently at the Royal National Theatre in London. In 2007, she wrote 'Presence', which aimed to apply acting techniques such as voice control to the general public. The book explores how energy is used by all performers, be they on stage or otherwise, to connect with their audiences. Patsy reserves a section of the book specifically for teachers.

The Three Circles of Energy

Patsy's discovery of her 'recipe' for presence came from her frustration with conventional acting techniques as she was teaching them to her students, who;

"..became audible, coherent and interesting to listen to, yet that wasn't enough. I would sit and listen to maybe 200 actors a week. I couldn't understand why some actors did everything right yet didn't engage me...I forgot their work. The more experienced teachers would say something like, 'It's talent or 'presence'. So and so hasn't got it...if one hadn't already got 'It' 'It' was beyond their power or mine to teach' p xiii.

Eventually, after much experimentation, Patsy realized that she could teach 'It'; as presence is an energy that we all have, if we know how to harness it. She realized that she could divide energy into three basic movements or circles.

Patsy describes the three circles in the following way: ' They describe the three basic ways human energy moves...all through your body, breath, voice and how you listen, think and feel. You feel this energy as do others around you..(it)is completely tangible. You can move through all Three Circles rapidly within seconds. You need to be able to access all Three Circles during the course of the day' p 16

'First Circle is an inward moving drawing energy towards the self. At the opposite extreme is the Third Circle, in which energy is forced outwards towards the world in general. In the Second Circle, energy was focused on a specific object or person and moved in both directions, taking in and giving out. Operating from within the second circle was what all the actors who possessed 'It' had in common.' p xiv.

This principle also relates to teachers.

'Deep, active and thorough learning only takes place when the teacher and the pupil are both in Second Circle. Third Circle teaching may be a good strategy to control the students as it seems the most immediate way of engaging a group of threatening pupils. A First Circle teacher has no chance of teaching anything unless they are a renowned guru whose students have flocked to hear every word.' p 223

How to find the Second Circle

I see many connections between this acting technique and what Keith Johnstone describes as a Status Master, or what the architects of NLP described when they modeled master communicators, who could create fantastic rapport and 'connect' with people on a profound level.

Patsy describes the second circle as 'the energy of connecting'. 'You are living in a two-way street - you reach out and touch an energy outside your own, then receive energy back from it.' p 21

You know you are in Second Circle if you;

Feel Centered and Alert

Feel your body belongs to you

Feel the earth through your feet

Feel your breath is easy and complete

Know you reach people and they hear you when you speak

Notice details in others - their eyes, their moods, their anxieties

Are curious about a new idea, not judgmental

Hear clearly

Acknowledge the feelings of others

See, hear, smell, touch something new which focuses this energy inside the whole of you.

Body Language

There is much more to be said about non-verbal communication in the classroom. Click here for an article on how pupils can make unconscious but lasting decisions about you, just from reading body language and for a great book recommendation.

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