Be Like Anthony Hopkins
In a 2006 interview with the Hollywood Reporter’s Wolf Schnieder, Oscar-winner Sir Anthony Hopkins revealed his technique for preparing a role:
I learn the text cold, read it maybe 100 or 200 times….It’s a trick I play on myself just to make sure I really know it. Then I'm at ease, and I can improvise. I just did a movie called "Bobby," about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I play this retired doorman at the Ambassador Hotel, and I've got a long speech, about a page and a half. So, I read it 250 times, and this gives me a tremendous sense of ease and the power of confidence.
Asking folks to commit specific time and effort to crafting their stories can be a tough sell. Between client work, family obligations and the occasional workout, time is scarce. People don’t want to add something to the list, especially when it’s something they think should come easily.
Many people think that good communicators are born that way. I often hear clients say things like, “He’s naturally good at this.” “She’s an extrovert—it’s in her DNA to be a good speaker.” “He’’s always been a great writer. He has a gift.”
Sorry, but no. While there may be a small number of people for whom clear communication comes easily, most strong communicators work at it. A lot. You’ve heard the analogy of the swan, gliding so gracefully on the water’s surface, but paddling like crazy underneath? That’s the great majority of successful public speakers. Like pro athletes and musicians, they make it look easy, but their seemingly effortless ability is powered by a whole lot of practice.
If after multiple decades at the top of his game, Anthony Hopkins won’t walk on to a set before reading his lines 200 times, we mere mortals can roll up our sleeves and practice our Power Points. We may not win the Oscar, but we will certainly share our stories in a more compelling way.