Patrick Stewart: A lesson from Shakespeare and Star Trek

Image of Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

I do not consider myself to be a Trekkie, but I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the second Star Trek series and the only one that I watched from beginning to end. The main reason was the brilliant performance by Patrick Stewart, the brilliant English actor.

Stewart played Jean-Luc Picard, the Captain of the USS Enterprise. Courageous, eloquent and a great communicator, Stewart’s character was also a man of culture, a man of humility and someone who wasn’t afraid to seek the advice of others — and heed it. If only more real-life leaders were like him!

I recently came across the video below in which Stewart sat down with his fellow actor and good friend, Ian McKellen to answer questions from fans. One of the questions for Stewart caught my attention: “Did your Shakespearean training help you?”

Stewart said that his Shakespearean training helped him for Star Trek in two ways: one vocal and one physical. The physical is also good advice for public speakers.

See what Stewart said in the video below. It should start at the relevant time but if not, skip ahead to 8:47.

There you have it. Stewart said that he was the one person who knew what to do with his hands, which was nothing. In other words, he was comfortable leaving them at his sides as you can see him do in this clip from Star Trek, a screen shot of which is below.

Clients often ask me what they should do with their hands when they speak in public. Why not let gravity do some of the work and leave them by your sides? No, not for your entire speech or presentation, but from time to time. It’s the most natural position for your hands. And it’s better than putting them in your pockets or behind your back or holding them together in front of you.

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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