What can an actor teach you in the big, bad world of business?
I come from a close knit Liverpool family and none of them had ever ‘trod the boards’. One of my earliest memories was a moment in my nursery school nativity, I was lost for my words and so I began to improvise with a routine I had seen on The Muppet Show. It didn’t have much to do with the birth of Jesus however it made the Mums and Dads laugh. That laughter was addictive!
Every chance there was to do a turn, stand up and read aloud, to do an impression or tell a joke, I was there volunteering.
I started out my professional acting as a boy detective on Saturday morning television at the grand old age of ten. I had been well and truly bitten by the theatrical bug and at the age of 19, I auditioned for a new musical and managed to land the leading comedy role.
Since then, I have sung and danced on the West End stage, fought aliens on the cinema screen, completed my own stunts and had a stunt double. I have also featured in commercials advertising everything from The Samaritans, to Pro-Bio Yoghurt Drinks, to Pesto. This all comes alongside acting in sitcoms with a live studio audience and being part of the nation’s favourite soap opera.
I have been in flops, been in hits and everything in between!
What can an actor teach you in the big, bad world of business? Aren’t us thespians all about air-kisses, calling each other ‘daaarling’, and behaving like divas!? I beg to differ. Actors have a huge amount to offer as we understand and respect deadlines, we are resourceful, creative, courageous, versatile, flexible and great team players.
Here are just a few ways I believe working with an actor can add value to you, as an individual, and as a business:
When you are up on stage anything can and will happen. People forget lines and people forget entrances as well as both the props and sets are not always working. At these moments an actor knows how to accept and build, how to improvise in this situation. This skill is great for any business professional. Being able to focus, think and act quickly whilst giving the impression that all is calm, cool and collected is a terrific skill for when clients, co-workers or circumstances throw you a curve ball.
Understanding People –
For me good acting is not about putting on a mask and becoming someone else, it is about taking off the mask and revealing yourself, warts and all. As an actor I still spend hours learning the human condition through both people watching and introspection. The more I can understand the character I am playing, from the inside out, the better my performance will be. I therefore use this skill with everyone I come into contact with. I am able to ‘put myself in their shoes’ and I try to understand the world from their unique point of view. I truly believe this makes me a not only a better actor, but also a better consultant, coach and friend.
Dealing With Nerves –
Every time I step in front of a camera or an audience I am nervous. I know that I can’t hide those nerves, but what I can do is harness them and use that energy to drive my performance. Shutting down nerves in an attempt to ‘pull yourself together’ only leads to disconnect from an audience. It shuts down all the emotions which add life and vitality to your message. It concerns me when I work with anyone who tells me they don’t feel nervous because then I know that whatever they are talking about doesn’t really matter to them. Nerves are an actor’s best friend, Judi Dench calls nerves her ‘batteries’ they are the energy we need.
Seeing the positive in rejections –
For all the jobs I have booked there have been hundreds which I haven’t got. I have faced rejection more times than I care to admit. Though over the years I have learnt to cope with the rejection and turn it into a positive. Every audition is about ‘booking the room’ not ‘booking the role’. The most important thing in an audition for me is that I have sold myself to the room as someone who would be great to work with, regardless of whether I get that particular job or not. Being able to walk into a meeting with this sense of optimism and also with the inner confidence as to who I am makes for a positive encounter. This mentality works with every business meeting, boardroom, presentation or pitch that I have ever coached.
All too often I come across people in the business world not actually communicating but simply taking turns in having separate conversations. As an actor I understand the skill of listening and collaborating. Both of which require time and attention. If I wasn’t truly listening to my acting partner in a scene, it would come across as fake and disconnected. If I was unable to listen to my director at a rehearsal, I would never be able to perform at my best. Simply by listening and saying ‘thank you’, ‘I understand’ or ‘tell me more’ I can bring out the best in myself and in others. I always remember that when I bow at the end of a theatre production, is not about me but is actually a way of saying thank you to the audience.