“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one person in their time plays many parts.”
(Adapted from) William Shakespeare
Did you know that the word “Drama” is derived from the Greek word “Dran” which means “to do”. Actors and Actresses “Act” which, as a verb means “to take action, do something” and as a noun “a pretense”.
Whether you are a student, entrepreneur or employed in a company, studying the acting world can turbo charge your personal growth, self improvement and communication skills.
Table of Contents
- OWNING THE STAGE
- THE POWER OF LISTENING
- THE POWER OF SILENCE
- THE AUTHENTIC YOU
- YOUR NATURAL VOICE
- OVERCOMING SELF JUDGEMENT
- EXPLORING THE POINTS OF VIEW ANGLES
- ADAPTING TO THE MOMENT
The Actor’s Foundation
- What is my character’s objective?
- What obstacles does he/she encounter along the way?
- How do these obstacles impact my character’s journey?
- How are these obstacles overcome (or not)?
Sound familiar? Think business leadership, sales or marketing and each of the above questions regularly feature in the daily lives of anyone in business. Perhaps you are seeking a deeper understanding of your clients or customers, innovating a new product to provide a solution to an existing problem or designing an event; in all cases the above questions that each and every actor explores are exactly the same as those asked by anyone in business who is constantly seeking to improve and progress.
The Business of Acting
People who learn to act become more inspiring and more self-confident storytellers, essential skills in the boardroom or when you are client or customer facing. Whether you are presenting to your team, client or customer, if you have an entertaining story, your message will be far more memorable.
10 Life Skills That Acting Teaches
Effective storytelling is about communicating with impact and learning a few tricks-of-the-trade from acting will stand you in very good stead. The art of acting is about first looking inwardly to understand who exactly you are. Then you will have the power to fuel your self confidence, analyze others and own your stage.
The acting world is a celebration of creativity which is typically the scarcest resource in an organization. Creativity begins with being able to and having a free rein to “play” and by encouraging “play” in your company, your organization becomes a hotbed for innovation. Take your team (aka “cast”) out of their comfort zone, challenge them, encourage them to play freely and foster out-of-the-box creative thinking.
2. LEARN TO OWN THE STAGE
Seasoned actors are experts at using and manipulating the stage (or space) to their advantage. This skill is exactly what you need when you are public speaking, presenting or holding court among your colleagues or friends. But if you come over as being nervous and uncomfortable, you will lose the trust and attention of the audience immediately. They will erect the dreaded invisible wall and when that happens your quest and message is lost.
Your stage can be any space from office to boardroom, event or activation. Learn the art of blocking which is basically how you choreograph yourself throughout your presentation; retreat to the back, advance to the front, how you make your entrance and exit, the props you need, right down to the gestures you are making with your hands and facial expressions. Gestures and expressions can often be far more potent than words.
3. THE POWER OF LISTENING
Very few people master the art of listening and genuinely paying attention to what someone else is saying. An expert listener is not just someone who is good at listening to words tumbling out of someone’s mouth. The expert listener is not just hearing, they’re watching too.
Imagine being in front of someone who is selling you a product or service which requires trust, but they are unable to make eye contact whilst they talk to you and are speaking quickly. Would you trust them or what they are trying to sell you?
If you are selling products or promoting ideas and concepts, being an artful listener will make you a lot more successful at what you do. You will be able to detect what other actors on the scene are telling you, you will know the needs that they are communicating and be able to respond with a solution that meets, or better still, exceeds their basic need.
4. THE POWER OF SILENCE
The Dramatic Pause. Actors use this technique to capture the audience’s undivided attention; “You could have heard a pin drop”. Imagine talking to your team and saying “Before we make a decision, I have something to say” and then you pause and say nothing … all eyes are on you. Seconds pass and when you start talking, all ears are open.
5. THE AUTHENTIC YOU
Successful business leaders are chameleons; they can adapt their style and communication to the role they are expected to play in different situations. There are times when you may need to deliver a clear and simple message, tough love, or explain why targets have fallen short, for example.
All of these require authenticity, sincerity, logic and belief. Professional actors will tell you that their job is about discovering and believing in their character’s true self; they have to rigorously believe in the things that motivate their character. Director’s know that they have achieved their goal when the actors no longer appear to be acting.
“I know I’m there when I make the shift from acting to just being.” Cate Blanchett.
6. YOUR NATURAL VOICE
“Fear is the only thing to Fear” (Franklin Roosevelt)
Actors are trained to do it, lawyers study the acting discipline to do it. A big part of actor training is to work with the power of your natural voice so that you will come over as being authentic even if you are caught off guard or are nervous.
The difference between a “Good” presentation and a “Brilliant” presentation depends entirely on how good you are at storytelling, at communicating and this has its roots firmly embedded in acting.
7. OVERCOMING SELF JUDGEMENT
The emotional seesaw of self-judgement it the biggest block for actors as it is in any walk of life; “Why wasn’t I chosen?”, “was my performance good enough?”. If you internalize those results and attach your sense of self-worth to outcomes, it will lead to unhealthy striving or worse, complete inaction and withdrawal.
Control is an illusion. We have to accept that we cannot predict or control outcomes or indeed others (or read their minds). When you understand this it is a huge psychological relief.
8. EXPLORING THE POINTS OF VIEW ANGLES
When an actor takes on a role they have to delve into the behavior of someone other than themselves. They need to know what motivates that character and the hopes and fears at play. This is about learning to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. When you master the skill of seeing different perspectives, it will pay huge dividends in terms of your circle of friends and career potential.
Being able to view a problem from points of view other than your own and from different perspectives empowers you to solve that problem quickly and effectively. It also gives you the wisdom and insight to acknowledge other people’s points of view and this is a tonic that fuels your inner strength whilst also elevating your position in the minds-eye of those around you.
9. SELF CONFIDENCE
For many of us, public speaking is a terrifying prospect and something that we fear. But when you overcome that fear by speaking in front of a live audience as often as possible, you begin to conquer that fear and gain self confidence.
Better still, for those of us who are in any way introverted, regularly practicing the art of public speaking can help to bring us out of our shell, make us more confident in social situations and significantly improve our communication skills.
Being adaptable is widely recognized today as being one of the most important life skills and ways to future-proof yourself for the pandemic-disrupted decade ahead. The need for adaptability is being driven by technological change, changes in employee perspective especially in terms of what they want from work and customer expectations which continue to rise. This is creating a shifting landscape for all of us and a future full of unknowns.
But with practice assuming a character’s identity, feeding off audiences and other actors, and being part of a team for a theatre, film, or television production cultivates the psychological flexibility that’s beneficial in almost all aspects of your life.
To be successful, actors have to possess superior adaptability so that they are able to assume a character’s identity and sense subtle messages from both the audience and other actors. Actors have to be able to adapt and react quickly to these changes in the same way that business representatives have to process and adjust to customer responses to stay afloat.
Possessing this psychological flexibility helps us in all aspects of life. Adaptability can also have a really positive impact on our mental health at home, work, school and beyond.
Take Home: The Irony of Acting
The great irony of acting is that it shows you how to appear that you’re not acting.