Skip to main content


April 4, 2012

20 Acting Techniques for College Students to Make Your Lives Easier and More Fun

Posted by tbrmaureen

Author, actress and acting coach Jane Marla Robbins is a triple-threat, and in her book ACTING TECHNIQUES FOR EVERYDAY LIFE she shares advice that can help young people no matter what your life goals are. Whether you're looking to be the next big star, preparing to leave for college or moving to a new city on your own, Jane's advice can help you find your footing and thrive when faced with challenges.

1. MEETING YOUR NEW ROOMMATE. If you’re initially even slightly intimidated, try superimposing another person on top of the image of your roommate, with one or more of your five senses. Recreate someone you love and trust. See your Best Friend’s eyes, hear your Best Friend’s laugh. This doesn’t make you a crazy hallucinatory, only someone clever enough to use what actors call “Sense Memory.” (Medical science calls it “Guided Sensory Imagery.”) Your body’s wiring will fool you into thinking the new roommate is the person you love and trust. So you will feel relaxed and even happy, and your new roommate will get a genuine, warm welcome from you. And let’s hope that soon you’ll want to see your roommate as your roommate, and as no one else.

2. CONTROLLING YOUR ANGER. What if your new roommate says something which rubs you the wrong way, perhaps something political? Instead of throwing a punch, try another Sense Memory. Hear your favorite song in your head to calm your nerves, or taste the great lunch you just had with your Best Friend (who may agree with you politically). While you listen, you’ll be smiling --- though your roommate won’t know why! And at least your relationship won’t start off on a terrible foot.

3. FOR EXAMS. Try using an actor’s “Inner Monologue,” also called “Positive Self-Talk.” Write what you need to remember on a piece of paper --- Not the answers for your exam! --- and put it in your pocket. If you don’t have a pocket, fold it into your shoe. Maybe: “I deserve to be as smart as I am,” or “I am smart,” or “I give myself permission to do well on this exam.” Then repeat it to yourself before you go in. Or during the exam, if you suddenly get shaky.

4. LOOKING AND FEELING SELF-CONFIDENT. Useful for: class reports; for the Debating Club; running for school office; or for getting a loan. Remember a time when you actually were LOOKING AND FEELING SELF-CONFIDENT. Maybe it was at your high school graduation, in which case: feel the black robe you might have worn, or maybe see the diploma in your hand. See if one of these Sense Memories inspires feelings of accomplishment and self worth --- always useful for impressing other people, as well as yourself. Maybe it was when one of your hard-to-please parents praised something you did or made. And then you might hear that person saying, “I’m so proud of you.”

5. ANOTHER TIP FOR LOOKING AND FEELING SELF-CONFIDENT. It turns out that if your shoulders are over your hips, over your ankles, and your chest is not sunken in, that your body produces chemicals that actually make you feel self-confident instead of depressed or defeated (from an experiment at Harvard).

6. ANTOHER TECHNIQUE FOR LOOKING AND FEELING SELF-CONFIDENT. Try and “Play A Character.” Of course you can, didn’t you play Cowboys and Indians as a child? The good news is: No one will know what you’re doing, so play around with this. One college student I know pretends he is George Washington when he walks into a room, and immediately, for some reason, his posture changes, he stands up straight, his chest no longer sunken in. Or try playing Captain Kirk. Or your favorite self-confident actress.

7. FOR EXAMS, CLASS REPORTS AND EVEN DATING. Dare to “Take A Deep Breath.” Breath is Nature’s Tranquillizer. If you’re nervous, it’s natural, momentarily, to stop breathing. Fear makes us do that. But then there may not be enough oxygen getting to your brain, so that you won’t be as smart as you want to be. Elderly people who seem to be demented are being brought to hospitals and given oxygen, and suddenly they find the words they thought they had lost and begin to make perfect sense!

8. FOR CLASS REPORTS AND OTHER ORAL EXAMS. Take “A Meaningful Pause.” In the middle of your presentation, if you are suddenly breathless, or you lose your way, or forget a word or a thought: take that “Deep Breath” and dare to “Take A Pause.” Not for a half hour, a few seconds will do. That Deep Breath will get some oxygen to your brain so you can find the word or the thought; and you can also use the “Meaningful Pause” to remind yourself you’re smart, and/or imagine your last success. Actors use pauses all the time for dramatic effect. Or does being quiet scare you? Actually, people judge other people’s silences a lot less than you may think. And if you start out by looking and feeling confident, your audience may well think you’re pausing to find the best word, or to explain the most original idea. They may think you’re thinking. You’re allowed to think. Presumably that’s one of the things you’re encouraged to do in college.

9.  JOB INTERVIEWS. One of my clients went to a job interview and after the interview he told me that he remembered to take “A Meaningful Pause.” He said that when he took his pause, he noticed the man interviewing him moved towards him across his desk. And my client knew he had the job. He was right.

10.  “THE PERFECT PROP.” If you’re feeling shaky about, well, anything, an exam or a date, sometimes a meaningful object, or talisman, in your pocket can totally change how you think, feel and behave. I carry my granny’s locket in my pocket and rarely even need to touch it, to remember that it’s there. Even the thought of it changes my brain chemistry and wiring, because it puts me in the presence of my grandmother who made me feel loved. Feeling loved makes us strong.

11. A TIP FOR DATING. If you see someone across a crowded room who you hope is the Mate of your Dreams, you will not want to drool. You will want to look and feel and stay alive and grounded, or at least give that impression. You could imagine your favorite, rooted tree, maybe the old family oak, behind you, backing you up (sensorily, of course). Many actors have actually pretended they were a tree. Bottom line: what attracts people is not someone terrified of life but someone alive.

12. ANOTHER TIP FOR DATING. Afraid you’re rushing into some relationship? Try an actor’s “Inner Monologue.” Let’s say you’re already hearing wedding bells, and you know this will turn off your date. Here’s a note you might keep in your pocket and/or also repeat in your head: “I enjoy building this relationship SLOWLY.” Or “I deserve to really know this person before I jump in the sac or marry them.”

13. “THE PERFECT PROP” FOR THE PERFECT DATE. Here’s something I’ll still use if I’m afraid I’ll pretend that someone I’ve met for five minutes is someone I must marry. At the coffee shop, on the table between me and my date, I’ll put a pair of glasses, or even an empty pair of glasses frames -- to remind me to really SEE the person I’m with. (Or they could be in my pocket.)

14. DEALING WITH HURTFUL, CRITICAL PEOPLE. If, for example, someone says, “You’re fat,” or “You’re stupid,” this is mean. Usually this means that this person thinks he or she is fat or stupid, and is a little out of control, because if they were secure, they wouldn’t have to be mean. A piece of paper in your pocket might read, “This person is really criticizing himself. He really must hate himself. I could pray for him.” Or, “I must not look for loving support from this person, I must go and make friends with people that are nice to me.” Or you could just imagine that person with a pigeon on his or her head. Doing what pigeons do.

15. “SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH.” If you’re uncomfortable around someone, if they’re putting you down, or let’s say, manipulating you into being late for an important appointment, sometimes “Speaking Your Truth” just shocks them out of their unpleasant need to be in control. Make sure you talk about your truth, instead of attacking theirs. For example, “I feel uncomfortable now. It’s very important to me to go where I’m going. So I’m going.” Not “You’re a mean, controlling bitch.”

16.  KNOW HOW YOU FEEL AND WHAT YOU WANT. That’s it, folks. Every time an actor analyzes what he must do in a scene, in a film, or in a play, he must answer those two questions. When people know the answer to these questions in “real-life,” they tend to be balanced, and even happy. Try it.

17.  FINDING YOUR VOICE. I won’t deal here with how, metaphorically, this is a life-long challenge. But at least literally, we at all want our speaking voices to be clear and strong, and even pleasant and resonant, when we need them to be. Hot tip: Can you make a “Haaah” sound, and feel your sternum (your chest bone) vibrate with a low deep sound? This could even feel sensual. If you feel this when you talk, and you can, your vocal quality will be richer, its resonance stronger. Even impressive. You’ll even be connected to Yourself.

18.  FOR EXAMS AND JOB INTERVIEWS. Enjoy What You’re Doing. You’ll perform better on exams if you can find a way to make the experience Fun instead of Torture. Maybe make a list of people, places, things and events that make you smile. Read it before that exam or job interview, so your body will be in its pleasure state instead of one of dread. (No one wants to hire someone unhappy and scared!)

19.  CHARISMA. Everybody wants to shine. At the least, everybody wants to be the Lead Actor in his own life -- the Star. Use “Sense Memory” to imagine breathing white light into the spaces between your vertebrae, or into your muscles or bones. Scientists as well as actors understand that our body remembers Light, and it will follow the sensory suggestion. Or you could sensorily remember the first time you were in love, and your First Kiss. People in love shine. Or you could just fall in love.

20. TRANSFORMING FEAR INTO JOY. Any of the “Acting Techniques” above will take you on the journey, from Stage Fright in Life into Self-Confidence and a sense of well-being. Fear makes us contract, so breathe to actually get bigger. Try sensorily to recall people, places, things and events where you feel or have felt strong and loved, and your body’s wiring will take you there and make you strong, happy, joyous and free. And go out and have fun.

Jane Marla Robbins is a successful actress, performance coach and author. She is the author of ACTING TECHNIQUES FOR EVERYDAY LIFE: Look And Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real Life Situations, now in its fifth printing, and of PERFORM AT YOUR BEST: Acting Techniques for Business, Social, and Personal Success. Her acting credits include, on film: Rocky I, II & V, Arachnophobia, and on television: ER, Murder She Wrote, Beverly Hills 90210. Visit her on the web at