10 Things We Learned as Actors That Can Strengthen Your Communications

May 22 2019
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Taft Comms
10 Things We Learned as Actors That Can Strengthen Your Communications

By Sheila Cort and John Ellis

It probably won’t surprise you, but several of us who coach here at Taft ClearPoint began our professional lives as actors.

Click to TweetClick to tweet: Former actors now part of the @TaftComms team share 10 tips from the stage that will help you communicate more effectively, no matter your business. ow.ly/yZcM50uo6QG

Here are 10 lessons we learned on the stage that you can use every day, no matter your business, to communicate more effectively:

1. “All the world’s a stage…”
Shakespeare was right. You are being read the moment an audience sees you. So, enter strong with a confident smile on your face.

2. Know your lines. And your cues.
In meetings, don’t merely know beforehand what you are going to say, know when to toss to your colleagues. Clients put trust in well-coordinated teams.

3. Also know how to improvise.
When someone throws you a curveball — and they will — know how to see it and hit it.

4. “But, Mr. Stanislavski, what’s my motivation?”
The way to know what to do or say in the moment is to know what your intention is — what is the outcome you want? Really, it’s a matter of goals, strategy and tactics. For example, there’s a difference between wanting your team to make a decision and wanting it to make this decision. Depending on which it is you’ll say different things — and say them in different ways — to influence that outcome. If you’re clear about what you want, it’s a lot easier to be clear about what to say.

5. What’s the way to make it look natural? Listen. Really listen.
Professional life — from certain kinds of meetings to presentations you make — can sometimes feel routine and stale. But if you really listen to what’s going on, you’ll find that each “performance” is actually completely new. And if it feels new to you, that feeling will rub off onto others.

6. “What’s the way to Carnegie Hall?” Practice. Practice. Practice.
Rehearse before meetings and presentations. Run through things in role. It’s the difference between saying: “Then I’ll tell them about XYZ” and actually saying it. When you say things out loud you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.

And “pre-visualize” just like the Navy SEALS do before a mission. Why? Because, when it actually happens, your brain will think it’s happening again, and you’ll know what to do.

7. Who’s your audience?
As an actor, you “play” to your fellow actors. (If they don’t believe it, no one will.) BUT you’re also acutely aware of how the audience out there will respond.

It’s the same in business. You may be answering a question from the communications manager, but you’re also shaping your answer for the senior vice president in the room.

8. Ensemble acting is the best kind.
All actors are hams. Great actors are cured hams. They enjoy acting with others. Giving your colleagues your attention and respect makes the difference between polite applause and a standing ovation.

9. Actors are athletes.
Acting is physical. You need to be heard in the back row. Audiences need to know from your face and your body how your character feels. You need to move around the stage like it’s your home.

Also, like an actor, if your “performance” is at 8 p.m. — you’ve timed your sleep, your meals, your hydration, and your mental preparation so you’re ready to go when the curtain opens.

10.Excuse me, what’s that sound?” It’s the sound of your heart in your ears.
It’s opening night. And you are? Nervous. Really nervous:

  • So, breathe, slowly and deeply.
  • Fill your thoughts with positive self-talk.
  • Then, start. You’ve prepared; you know what you know — so just say it.
  • And, when your nerves tamp down just a tad, ramp up your listening and present-ness. That’s when the real performance begins.

So, break a leg! Or, maybe give us a call first.

Interested in refining your leadership communications? Learn more about our ClearPoint coaching course, The Leadership Lab, or contact us for more information.  

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