From “Breaking Bad” to Breaking Bad Habits – Part I

From “Breaking Bad” to Breaking Bad Habits – Part I

How I Use What I Learned as A Casting Director and Acting Coach to Help Executives Present Themselves as They Intend and Add Power, Punch and Passion to their Presentations

When I was working with a team casting Season Four of the award-winning TV series, “Breaking Bad,” on location, the script called for three Spanish-speaking women to be seen standing and chatting outside an industrial laundry, which was a front for the meth lab.

None of the professional actresses we had auditioned in a five-state area had the genuine look or feel the director wanted. He instructed us to expand our search to include non-actresses (a.k.a. “real people”).

At last we were thrilled to find three women who were perfect for the parts.  There was something about them — they had a presence that stood out.

Our challenges were not over, though. We had to teach these non-professionals how to act for the first time in their lives. We had to coach them how to feel comfortable acting in front of a camera and an audience of sixty crewmembers. And we had to overcome a big hurdle – the women spoke no English.

With the help of an assistant who spoke Spanish fluently, we coached them to learn their lines. We also gave them tips to overcome their anxiety and shyness and we taught them techniques to appear comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

The Director was pleased with the results, and the faces of the three new actresses beamed at their success.

Similarly, when working with executives, whether they are new to public speaking or have been speaking for years, my role is to guide them to feel confident and comfortable speaking to audiences of all sizes, and to show up as they intend.

Some of the most common “bad” habits executives need to break are the same ones we had to help the Spanish actresses break.

Breaking Bad Habit One


Obvious signs that a speaker has not used her nervous energy to her advantage include:

  • Using filler words (ah, um, you know)
  • Closing her eyes
  • Waving her hands like a conductor
  • Bobbing her head
  • Blinking her eyes too often
  • Gulping for air
  • Smacking or Pursing her lips
  • Flailing her arms
  • Wringing her hands

Nervous energy is basically adrenaline. The trick is to use it to your advantage. You want some of it to enable you to present dynamically. However, too much adrenaline causes stress and can show up as the behaviors listed. These will distract your audience from your message and seeing you the way you intend.

Ways to Appropriately Channel Nervous Energy: Some of the best ways to channel nervous energy includes performing exercises that ground you. Actors call them centering.  These exercises literally move the energy that is stuck in the upper half of your body down into your legs where it will support you.

When the energy moves into your legs, you will appear solid and in command of yourself and the situation – more confident and comfortable like the Spanish ladies.

Exercises that move energy from your upper body to your legs

Physical Grounding Exercise: Squats and jumping jacks are ideal for moving the energy into your legs. If that much exercise is too much for you, climb stairs.

Bioenergetic Grounding Exercise: You can do this a few hours ahead or just before a presentation or interview. Stand with your feet directly under your hips, with your toes pointed slightly inward (pigeon toed). Put your hands on a chair or wall in front of you for balance, not support. Bend your knees and pump your body very slowly up and down. The more you can lower your body and the slower you move, the greater the benefit. Be careful if you have knee issues. Keep doing it until you feel a burning or aching sensation in your legs. Slowly stand up and walk around. You should notice your feet and legs feel differently. You are more grounded.

Paper Clip or Coin Trick: Put a coin or paperclip inside your shoe to remind you to feel your energy in your feet during the presentation.

I encourage you to try some or all of these exercises to see which ones work best for you. My guess is that the results will be noticeable.

Please post a comment on how these tips have worked for you and share other things that have worked for you.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  I love hearing from you!

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