Author: Sheridan Green

Seven Techniques for Effective Presentations

Ian David Melbourne Playback facilitator working with Qantas on presenting skills

Presenting to any sized audience can be daunting and fill you with anxiety. You are the focus. All eyes are on you. Expectations are high. Everything you say, everything you do, your appearance, your tone of voice, your gestures and the content of your presentation play a part in the efficacy of your delivery. Knowing what you want to say is only part of the whole equation. You want your presentation to have an impact and for the audience to remember the information.

The following techniques provide some suggestions on how to accomplish exceptional presentations. Melbourne Playback is offering Training Days in May and “Presenting with Confidence” and “Use Story to Communicate Vision” will support you to realise these concepts. More information and bookings go to or email email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Know your audience

Whether you need to persuade or just inform, you need to understand a number of things about your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? How experienced are they? This helps you frame your content in a way that resonates most strongly with your audience.

Be an expert

No one likes to be told things that they already know. Know more than your audience. This means doing your homework and having evidence for your assertions. Be clear about how you arrived at your opinion.

Prepare your speech

This might feel like an obvious one. But so often, people have not written down what they are going to say. They have a few notes scribbled down on a bit of paper and suddenly in front of hundreds of people they can’t read their notes or understand what they were thinking in the first place. Writing down what you want to say before hand, even if you don’t read it while your up there, helps consolidate your thoughts and ideas. It can provide you with a structure about how you might approach your material.


Rehearse alone, in front of people, film it, record it – do it again and again and again. You need to know what is coming next. You need to know it inside out and back to front. You want it to be second nature. Once you think you cannot possibly do it again – do it again! Keep refining. Keep asking yourself; Is this clear? Does my presentation logically flow? Am I presenting in an engaging way? Am I waffling on? Remember; less is more.

Anecdotes are your friend

Inserting a personal story or a story that acts as an example is an excellent way of connecting with your audience. It makes complex concepts comprehensible. It does this by allowing the audience to use the imaginative side of their brain and understand the point of your presentation from a humanistic perspective. This increases their understanding about why your presentation is important.

Vocal Tone

You may have written and rehearsed the most exciting speech in history, but if you present it monotone, your audience will disengage. When we are speaking casually to our colleagues, friends or family we use lots of dynamic tones to emphasise a point or to help articulate the story we are telling. Sometimes this exciting dynamic voice disappears when we present. Nerves are usually the culprit. The first step to ensure that we speak with dynamic vocal tone is to be aware of our tendency to flatten tone. A good friend can help with this when they listen to you rehearse! Are you too loud? Too soft? Too monotone?

Body Language

We subconsciously read so much into the way people physically hold themselves. The best way to present is to make sure you are standing tall and relaxed – confident and open. Leave your arms on the podium or down by your sides when you are not using them to make gestures. Make sure your gestures are natural and spontaneous. Maintain eye contact. Make sure the clothes you choose to wear facilitate easy movement and do not distract from the incredible amount of work that you’ve put into this presentation.

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Lost Stories and Other Adventures – Beckett Theatre, Coopers Malthouse


Chance encounters, mysterious strangers and chats at the coffee machine. The challenges and triumphs, the heroes and villains, this is your year on stage. Uncover forgotten moments and celebrate your year with Melbourne Playback.

This is what the audience had to say from performances recently held at the Beckett Theatre, the Coopers Malthouse.

“I love the way you honour people’s stories – what is said and what is unsaid. I feel enlivened – not only as I consider the process and synchronicity of the performance, but as I consider the emotions captured and expressed. Thank you :)”


“It was the most amazing & gripping & wonderful journey! For some unknown reason I had tears rolling down my cheeks at times, and laughed a lot at other times.”


“Amazed at actor’s improvising skills and ability to quickly determine the means by which they expressed the ‘Lost Stories’.”


“I really enjoyed the integrity the cast have with sharing stories from the audience. The truth and generosity is really rewarding from an audience perspective.”


“I Loved it! Amazing – my stories were there and I didn’t say a word.”


“Fun, different, entertaining, enlightening! and special. Eye-opening to hear different people’s stories.”


Thank you everyone for coming…

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The Little Things

Melbourne Playback Theatre Company presents:
The Little Things

Those little things caught in your memory, that make you catch your breath, cause your heart to warm or keep you smiling even after you’ve walked away. The things perhaps too small even for an anecdote but are the essence of your personal story. This is a celebration of those little things. They make a big difference after all.

The Melbourne Playback Ensemble is Rodney Afif, Karen Berger, Ian David, Alan Davies, Danny Diesendorf, Rachael Dyson-McGregor, Andrew Gray, Sherridan Green, Ernie Gruner, Petra Kalive, Allen Laverty, Mike McEvoy, Diana Nguyen, Michelle Nussey, Alex Sangster, Emily Taylor.

Dates & Times

October – Saturday 12 at 8pm and Sunday 13 at 6pm
Tickets Full $25 Concession $15
La Mama, 205 Faraday St, Carlton

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Communication Tips – The Power of Listening

Playback Theatre is a form of theatre that encourages a high level of communication between all involved. The facilitator / conductor, the performers and the audience are all engaged in deep listening and because the performers are modelling empathic and active listening techniques, they encourage empathy between audience and storyteller.

Our ensemble have brainstormed ten communication tips derived from their experience listening and reflecting thousands of stories. The 10 tips below all apply as much in everyday communication as they do in Playback Theatre.

In Playback the performers do not ask questions, they listen to the whole story and they imagine themselves in the storyteller’s shoes before responding. It is the facilitator’s job to ask questions, but also to get out of the way and let the storyteller tell the story that they want to share.

  1. Listen to understand first, then to be understood.
  2. Remember you have only one mouth and two ears for a reason. Listen more than you speak.
  3. Listen to the speaker rather than listening for your own response.
  4. Remember the power of stillness and pause.
  5. There’s no harm done speaking a little slower.
  6. Learn people’s names and use them when you speak with them.
  7. Ask questions, get to know people by asking them about themselves. Be interested in what they say and see if you can find common ground.
  8. Let people finish. It’s hard to stop yourself when you have a good idea, but it can be great to hold that thought and let the person finish. What they finish with might change how you respond.
  9. Put your phone away when talking. Give your full attention.
  10. Not all cultures use direct eye contact.
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Theatre Works Season

Thank you to every one who attended Playback’s Theatre Works Season.
A special thanks to the audience members who shared their stories.

Feedback from some of the audience:

“I always love it. So much tension every time. Beautiful actors.”

“Don’t think it could of been better.”

“Good giggles. Comfortable, easy, relaxed evening.”

“The honesty of the stories and the quality of the interpretation was inspiring.”

“Loved the positive spin on some sad stories.”

“I liked the involvement of the audience and the accurate take the performers had on the stories.”

“Emotional. Engaging. Excellent.”

“The musicians were fantastic and really worked well with the improvisation.”

“Very engaging, thoroughly entertaining. The ensemble are very talented.”

“Validating, moved, honouring, vulnerable, thank you.”

“The best I have seen – the diverse theatrical skills used was excellent.”

“I liked the supportive environment created for the audience member telling the story.”

“Great, very creative, actors were excellent and versatile.”

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June 2013

Melbourne Playback is looking forward to seeing you at our Portraits Public Shows this weekend at Theatre Works. Saturday 29 at 8pm and Sunday 30 at 6pm.

Come along and watch audience members stories come to life through theatre.

Or you may have a story to tell?

Meet company members in the foyer post the performance.

TW portraits small poster

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Allen Laverty – Company Member Profile

Originally I trained as actor at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba (just west of Brisbane) and have always had an interest in physical theatre, circus and acro-balance in my work. I love how these skills support my acting craft and also provide me with a great way to train my body. I only came to acting when I was about 30 years old. Prior to that I’d worked as a carer for people with disabilities and also taught job-skills to folks who’d been long-term unemployed. 
I moved down to Melbourne in 2010 and joined Melbourne Playback the following year. I was interested in the chance to hear real stories from people and to use theatre as a way to perform these stories back to the audiences who told them.  This month I’m running some introductory acro-balance workshops with our Company as part of our weekly warm ups and training. It’s been great to share some of my circus, acro-balance and physical theatre skills with everyone and we’re currently having fun (and overcoming some fears…) whilst we play with what it takes to ‘base’ someone, find out how to become a ‘flyer’, learn who has the responsibility in a lift, discover how to support and really trust one another and identify what sort of strength (physical and mental!) that we need to do the balances. 
Not only are these important ideas for actors, but also they are great metaphors for any group or team to think about in daily work. It’s exciting to see how circus and acro-balance can mix with the Playback form to give us a broader physical language to work with. Now, we’re integrating these skills into our performances to create images and poetry in our story-telling and we’ve already had some beautiful results. 
Allen Laverty

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Andrew Gray Co-Artistic Director


Welcome to our first E-news for 2013! It’s already March and the year is well and truly into full swing!

Melbourne Playback is engaged again this year in working with Qantas Ground Operations in delivering specifically designed Service Culture & Leadership Experiences. This exciting project has us travelling to Sydney every week to engage with the people of Qantas and the culture of their workplace. This week our crew have been on the ground with the Ramp and Baggage Staff at Melbourne Airport. We’re gaining a real understanding and appreciation for the co-ordinated work that’s required to ensure aircraft are cleaned, bags loaded, seats allocated and passengers on board, so that an On Time Departure (OTD) is assured!

2013 has seen us working with several long term clients again: VISY, Melbourne Health, Mt Eliza Business School, City of Darebin, Brentwood Secondary College and Methodist Ladies College. We’ve recently begun a project with Australian Sudanese Youth in Footscray looking at their experiences with the justice system (co-sponsored by Juvenile Justice and Storyscape) that will culminate in the participant’s performing their stories and producing videos of the challenges they face and the hopes they have for how justice might be applied and communicated.

At Playback we deal in story. The stories of diverse organisations, communities and people. Often we’re working in environments where change is underway. Sometimes the changes are being embraced and celebrated, sometimes there is uncertainty and fear, sometimes people want others to initiate the change, and at times strong resistance to change is present.  Our role is to create a space for the diversity of opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings to be expressed, and at times to be a catalyst for change. It’s a privelege to be part of people’s engaging, striving and wrestling with change. It’s exhilirating at times and it can also bring it’s moments of challenge. Recently I’ve been finding inspiration, guidance and comfort, in the following quotes: “There is nothing permanent except change” (Heraclitus) and “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” (Barack Obama)

Happy New Year and here’s to ongoing change! 

Andrew Gray 

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Learning and Development staff forum on in July 2012

Donna Conroy Projects Officer, People, Learning and Culture provided feedback from the participants. Here are some of the comments made:

  • I would like more of the Playback type work around values congruent responses to common difficult work situations.
  • I think this session was especially meaningful way to present and learn about such situations.
  • Melbourne playback Theatre Company – they were excellent!! Having the opportunity of meeting other workers in Connection.
  • Lots of interesting things discussed. Staff participation, not just sitting there and listening.
  • The atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable.
  • The Playback performances were spot on and just amazing to watch and also to have a laugh to make you feel really good about yourself and further to learn and see from a different perspective on how things are seen. They were awesome in my book… should be more them at our forums, please.
  • Playback Theatre Company, wish it went longer
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Melbourne Playback at Theatre Works

During our time at Theatre Works Melbourne Playback performed for Haileybury, Simon Perry Classroom Drama Teacher said, “Just wanted to say the girls absolutely loved your Playback workshop and performance. Your energy and thoroughly entertaining characters had the girls spellbound…They all left saying that was the best thing they have been to in these last two weeks…It’s been unreal for the girls and for some hopefully it’s a step into the world of the performing arts. Thanks again and can’t wait to catch up soon.”

Our next Performance was for Culture Mamas, a group of mums and bubs:

“What a great performance and how insightful for us all. I just loved being able to enjoy it without worrying that my girls were upsetting anyone! Thanks so much to you for bringing those soul-enriching experiences.”

Gabriela Heinz

Many thanks again to you and your company for an enriching and enjoyable theatrical experience for our mums, bubs and grandparents. We hope to do it again in the future! Culture Mamas.



Over the weekend we run professional development workshops and performed to public audiences on the Saturday and Sunday nights.

Penelope Bartlau left a post on our  “Memorable Moments”:

Last night we told stories to Playback: I shared & revisited an extraordinary moment in a jungle in Mexico, of terror and exhilaration when I accidentally disturbed a rabble of Ulysses butterflies from their hiding place in a fallen & hollowed tree. They flew out & over my head in a beating storm of sound, and away as a mass of bright blue. The Playback team encapsulated and reflected this moment, bringing and giving the moment’s sensation and feeling.

Same too for my husband, speaking of an experience when he & his cousin faced a sea-eagle, the three of them arms/wings outstretched: the were boys facing a strong wind and pretending to fly and the bird hovered, suspended – a metre in front of them, observing the boys as strange equals. The bird dived down and snatched a mouse hiding in the grass from between the feet of the boys, and held it prize-like in front of the boys for just a moment before flying away with it’s prize.

It was a delight to see the se stories, and to have them shared with the audience at Theatre Works last night. Such improvisational mastery these performers, musicians and the lighting operator have. Truly they are very, very good listeners – hearing us, and each other and playing exquisitely.

Melbourne Playback Theatre Company would like to thank everyone who attended and shared their stories and thanks Theatre Works for all your help and support.

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