How performance skills can aid in the workplace

Presenting online is harder than it looks, especially if public speaking already makes you nervous. A NIDA Corporate course could be the answer.

While a fear of public speaking can be a hindrance for anyone, in the business world – where excelling at presentations and pitches is often essential to success – the inability to speak confidently can be disastrous.

Overcoming such fears by drawing upon an actor’s skillset, including breath and vocal control and projecting the appearance of confidence at all times, can be transformational.

‘When people are presenting or engaging, they often do feel nervous. They’re usually very sure about their content; they’ve done lots of work, lots of research, but the energy that they’re giving off can give a very different impression,’ explained actor Sonia Todd, who also works as the Course Manager at NIDA Corporate.   

The online environment can be just as challenging: a digital meeting room in which even the most confident speakers can seem ill at ease due to the simultaneous challenges of remembering to look down the camera at their audience and the details of their presentation, while also navigating the technology at hand.

‘People want to be incredible. They want to have impact and be persuasive, and practical training can really help in that area,’ said Todd.


During her time at NIDA Corporate, Todd has witnessed firsthand the impact that learning an actor’s craft can have on business clients.

‘I had a young woman in a class that I was teaching who said to me that she was incredibly nervous about public speaking. It was a one-day course and she said she probably wouldn’t make it all the way through the day, but she just wanted to let me know that she wasn’t being rude if she had to leave.

‘So we worked through the physical skills, we worked through the vocal skills and we got to storytelling, and something just shifted. You could see a light bulb go off in her head. She stayed for the whole day and she even presented – she got up in front of people and presented. Impromptu, mind you. It hadn’t been planned beforehand,’ Todd said.

Confident speakers can also benefit from the training that NIDA Corporate provides, she continued.

‘We teach people how to minimise common Australian vocal habits such as the upward inflection, the rising inflection which makes you sound like you’re questioning what you’re saying rather than being sure of what you’re saying.’

Other performance skills taught in NIDA Corporate’s courses include learning how to minimise the use of ‘filler words’ such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ in conversation; the importance of posture and gesture; and especially the art of maintaining eye contact – an increasingly important skill in the age of Zoom and Microsoft Teams and one applicable to all walks of life.

‘Our training works across a variety of different fields, from individuals who are starting up a new company and have to go out and source capital, to government departments who have a lot of meetings. Legal, financial, medical – we work with a whole range of clients.’


Just as staff meetings have evolved to embrace remote working in the age of COVID, NIDA’s Corporate courses have also shifted – ensuring they can now be accessed nationally.

‘We’re now offering a variety of different courses online, such as one focused on how to present online. Another course looks at how to engage a team online, and we’re also looking at interview skills – that course is currently in the works and will be coming to a webinar near you later in the year,’ Todd said.

Ranging from introductory courses to intensives, NIDA Corporate courses can be structured around a client’s specific requirements.

‘The Public Speaking Bootcamp online, for example, is two hours each week for four weeks, but if you want something more intensive, our Presenting with Influence Online and Active Engagement Online courses are done over six hours – two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and two hours again the following morning.

‘But we also can deliver these courses in-house, and that gives the organisation absolute flexibility. If they want all six hours on one day, we can do that. If they’d like two hours each day over three days, we can be very flexible with that as well. And of course that flexibility is one of the positives that has come out of working online.’

Visit NIDA to learn more about business training and to book a workshop for your team.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts