Show me the money! Acclaimed actor's advice for making better business presentations

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- There are clear parallels between business presentations and acting on the big screen and that starts with knowing your audience.

"Acting and improvisation and storytelling are really great platforms for helping people in lots of businesses and lots of situations. And one of the ways that principally helps people is by making the activity of selling or presenting a human activity, which is what performance really is all about," said award-winning Broadway and television actor Adam Grupper on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

The "Law & Order" and "Homeland" actor said, too often, people make the mistake of reciting a speech without taking cues from the audience.

"We forget that it's a two-way street that we want to connect with our partners, we want to connect with the people that we're talking with, which means that we have to be receptive to what's coming from them," said Grupper.

Outside of show business, he works with corporate clients to help them improve their performances in the boardroom and overcome anxiety when delivering a presentation or sales pitch.

"Nervousness and stage fright has to do with when your focus is directed internally, you start thinking, 'what am I doing?' And when you start doing that, then your internal voice that starts to be self-critical kicks into gear," said Grupper. "The trick to getting out of stage fright is always to push your energy outward. It means that you have to be attentive to your partner - 'What are they doing?' not 'what am I doing?'"

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The "Two Weeks Notice" lawyer told WCBS 880 that the most common question he's asked by presenters is "What do I do with my hands?" Grupper advises businesspeople to not be preoccupied with their own body language. Rather, he said, they should focus on the information that they are conveying.

"Remember that what you have to convey is important, that what you have to convey is something that will be a benefit to your audience. It's not just a self-serving thing. What you're doing is for your mutual benefit and it'll be even more to your mutual benefit, if you are prepared to take what somebody gives you and then incorporate that," Grupper said.

He noted sometimes presenters need to be prepared to go off-script and improvise to connect with their audiences.

Grupper, who recently played "The Wizard" in "Wicked" on Broadway, recommends professionals be able to succinctly explain what they do and why it's important. Additionally, he said they need to be prepared to make professional connections in any situation, not just networking events.

See how to make a great sales presentation and connect with an audience on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.