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A Shot of Confidence
You're about to enter a party filled with smart, charismatic people. You need a boost of confidence—and you need it now. No problem, says top acting teacher Howard Fine, who has taught Salma Hayek, Brad Pitt, and Kerry Washington.

Fine rejects tricks like picturing partygoers in their underwear—or pasting a smile on your face, a mistake he's seen nervous actors make at auditions. "You look like you're doing a beauty pageant or you're demented," he says. "I tell actors that much of the time we walk into rooms, waiting for other people to make us comfortable."

Fine has developed a few exercises to help actors in new situations, which can be adapted to a party entrance. The first is to walk in and take a good look around. "Being self-conscious comes from the lack of orientation to the space around you," he says. "So the simplest thing is to take the attention off yourself—what we call in acting terms 'being in your head'—and onto where you are." Next give yourself a task that will loosen your body language and telegraph self-assurance. In the case of a party, proceed to the bar. "Get a drink," Fine says. "Put something in your hands." Third, circle the room. "When you take stock, you'll see some outgoing souls with people around them laughing, but most of us are dying for someone to come up and talk. Go talk to them." If you strike out, try someone else.

"I've come up with a lot of these techniques to deal with my own issues, as most teachers do," says Fine, who throws star-studded parties. "I have to make myself go to my own events, because if I had my druthers I'd stay home."