Actors can be some of the world’s most powerful sources of inspiration and influence. Not only do they have control and poise over how they present and carry themselves, they are also powerful communicators and storytellers. Within their career, they’re expected to create emotional and meaningful connections to influence others and their perceptions. These skills, important for the stage, are also pivotal to the business of events.
At first glance, the world of business events might seem completely different to that of dramatic arts, but professionals, regardless of seniority, can learn a lot from actors.
Actors pay attention to what they feel in the moment, rather than focusing on the end game, and through learned techniques use their emotional strength to form human connections. This is crucial in my day-to-day role at business development consultancyIngenuity, which involves inviting and hosting brand marketers from across the board at our new business ‘speed dating’ events.
Initially, training as an actor enabled me to be versatile and successfully engage with a large and diverse range of brand marketers in a way that resonates with each one on an individual level. Event professionals stand to learn a lot from actors. Accepted wisdom says: Acting is Reacting. You can’t react if you’re not paying attention or listening. An emotionally compelling performance sees an actor listen to their fellow performers and react appropriately. It is in this vein that event professionals must adopt different ways of communicating with a variety of people to better resonate with them and have an impact.
Practitioner David Mamet said, “Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up.” Essentially, do not get caught up in your own head. Mamet suggests that as a performer this is a selfish trait, as your focus should always be the audience. Similarly, in an event setting your focus should always be on the attendees. By practicing this mantra, professionals in this space can overcome their selfish thoughts and throw themselves into any situation with confidence. This way they can discover the truth of the moment.
Samford Meisner’s acting techniques focus on reacting to your fellow actor on stage in order to try and get the truth of the moment. By using techniques learnt in a Meisner class you learn to reach a state of playfulness when you are watching for a reaction and therefore can adapt what you are doing based on this. It creates a headspace where you are entirely in the moment. This can help in an event setting as you can become instantly engaging even if internally you are struggling to relate to those around you. By keeping a playful openness learnt in the theatre you can be prepared for any situation that’s thrown your way, meaning you can get a read of a person as soon you see or speak to them and adapt your response to suit them.
Improv games can help expand your playful side. A simple game such as Sitting Standing Lying (where three actors improvise a scene, but one must always be sitting one must always be standing and the other must always be lying down), enables actors to move around while the other two adapt their position. This can be used by event professionals in a business setting, as it helps them become aware of what others are doing around them – something key in any business setting.
Finally, having an open posture, which is drilled into you when training as an actor, means you will not only have a much more open mind when meeting a range of different people, but it will also help you appear more approachable. Adapting to different situations is something all of us do on a daily basis albeit subconsciously. Actor training helps bring that to your conscious mind, so you can ensure you’re not giving off negative signals.
Ultimately, a trained storyteller makes a better salesman. In event sales, as in theatre, you are ultimately selling a dream to an audience.