Self-Presentation: What Everyone Should Know


The importance of a good first impression on people cannot be overstated. It is your chance to set the tone for a good relationship and to create a proper and accurate view of yourself for others. Towards that end, why would a young performer do anything but try their hardest to present themselves well to the people they hope to work with? A recent gripe amongst my fellow directors has been the plague of poorly presented young professionals. Unkept clothing, poor manners and sloppy personal grooming all come up again and again. So, here for you now are some tips for young performers on how to present the best YOU that you can.

- Clothes really do make the person: By this, we don’t mean that you have to dress in designer threads to look good. You do have to understand how to dress well for your frame and for the right occasion. Learn to make the leap from everyday school-dress to a clean a polished audition ensemble. It will show you are serious about getting the job. Local actress Lani Wong agrees: “If you can, dress to impress. Your attire should resemble either the best of you, or dependent on the casting call/audition be dressed according to the character (not in full garb but I think a hint of the character is good) or according to their requirements. READ what an audition posting says!” When in doubt, get help from a fashion savvy friend or from a store employee.
This also applies to knowing how your clothes “work”. For example: All men should know how to tie a tie two ways (four in hand, half Windsor). Liesl Yost Barraza and Laura Schmidt agree that it is important for women to know how to walk properly in heels of varying lengths. All actors should know how to maintain their clothes as well. Know how to do your laundry, steam iron different articles of clothes, polish shoes, do minor sewing repairs, and find a good dry cleaners. Don’t know how to do these things? Look on YouTube. You can do much more on there than look at cats playing the piano.

Cool? Yes. Audition worthy? NO.
- Learn how to really groom yourself: It takes time to really know how to present a well-groomed version of you, but it makes a big difference. Know how to style your hair and have a good barber/stylist lined up for cuts, trims and even colorings. The big thing is to not look unkempt, and for us to be able see your face without constant hair adjustment. Men should know how to get a good, close shave. (Personal tip: Your grandpa had it totally right when he used a badger hair shaving brush in a mug with shaving soap. I wish I had those in high school. They work wonders!) Everyone, even men, should know how to do make-up. Blemishes happen. Know how to fix it if it helps you feel more confident. And please, brush your teeth, clip and clean your fingernails, shower, clean your ears and wear deodorant! This will impress more than just the director.

- Manners matter: While I think charm and beauty school is a bit too much, I feel that it is very important to know how to properly behave in a setting where you are in the presence of people who deserve respect. This isn’t meant to be a drastic overhaul a la My Fair Lady, but more of a tune-up for these situations.
            Think about posture. Stand and sit-up straight. It shows you are engaged and interested. Don’t slouch or sit forward with your elbows on your knees when seated.
            Verbal manners are big nowadays because they are really falling by the wayside. Learn proper grammar and use it. If this sounds anything like you, seek help: “Like, me and my friends were like, walking to that place, you know? And then, whatever. It was total waste of time, man.” Also, it should go without saying, but please: don’t cuss. Nothing makes you seem less desirable. Remember: “please”, “thank you”, and “may I”. Your teachers aren’t just being nags when they correct you. Also, know what appropriate subject matter is and isn’t in polite conversation. There are some things that are not flattering to overhear when you are trying to make a good impression.
            Also, (and I cannot believe I have to point this out), the following activities are frowned upon in public: nose picking, butt scratching, nail biting, gum popping, uncovered sneezing/coughing and “uncontrolled emissions”. This is being said because each and every one of these examples is FAR more common than you think.

The bottom line: Director’s find it very easy to cast people who know how to show the best of themselves in all aspects. It takes effort, knowledge, and thought, but it pays off exponentially. Take the time and take it seriously, and it will show.

            Special thanks to the many Facebook contributors who helped with this article: Lani Wong, Kim Saunders, Candice Price, Geri Carlson Sauls, Vera Sloan Canton, Kelly Lehane, Theresa Hoyer, Liesl Yost Barraza, Kathie Kratochvil, Christopher Villa, and Laura Schmidt.
1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Love you, Paul!!! Thanks for all that you do, and for repeating the same things that we, as teachers, tell our students.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

    Alexandra Mena
    Mezzo Soprano


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