This guest post on Michael Hyatt's blog showcases why working with an acting coach could improve your public speaking skills. The best part of the entire post is reminding you that pauses are okay. A pause gives the audience time to laugh after a joke; it also gives them a cue that what you just said was important. The trick, of course, is not to overdo the pause. Acting and public speaking do have a lot in common. While I've never taken acting classes - except for the semester I took drama in high school - I have done a lot of preaching. And for me, preaching will prepare you better as a public speaker than acting will.
Of course, preaching is technically public speaking. You're up in front of an audience - it's just that it's on a Sunday. They are sitting in pews or chairs, clad in ties or weird hats with nowhere to go. There's just 20 minutes between you and fried chicken, so it's go time. Like Beyonce honed her singing skills in the church, it's where I learned to speak. I'd guess that 99% of my talks during the first decade of my speaking career happened in churches. That comprised roughly 250 engagements, enough for me to work the kinks out.
My brother-in-law, in one of his law school classes, was learning how to try a case. They set up mock trials regularly and then graded performance. For their final exam, they could either present a closing argument or preach a sermon, about any topic. The professor knew that the skills of a good preacher also make for a good litigator.
The same is true of public speakers. You need to persuade. You need to empathize. You need to tell a good story, teach a good lesson, and offer a good challenge. These are three things I like to bring to each speaking engagement. You can leave the big hair, cheap suit, and appeal for money at home.
If you want get better at speaking, practice preaching, not acting.