Alison Sutherland on how acting techniques can help people and organisations to achieve their objectives.
Drama and business might not feel like a natural pairing, yet in a world where businesses are discovering the importance of creativity and innovation, and the arts industry sees the growing need to become self-sustaining, there’s a buzz around how dramatic acting techniques can impact learning development for corporate companies – as well as leadership and transformative change.
In dramatic arts training, actors hone specialised skills to help them manage nerves, tell a story and connect with an audience – all of which are highly valued skills in a business environment.
Whatever your industry, anyone can benefit from techniques such as breathing more fully to deliver a confident and authoritative vocal performance; maintaining eye contact to engage your listener and build trust; leaving space between your points to allow a message to land, helping to convey a powerful story; or experimenting with pitch and tone, for example avoiding uncertain upward inflection at the end of a sentence.
The growing gender gap
With the gender pay gap still prevalent in many fields of business, techniques that help women to succeed in challenging situations can enable them to negotiate career progression and pay rises with greater confidence and authority.
Storytelling techniques craft a powerful narrative and carry the audience on a journey.
It’s not just about equal pay. Our research shows that women frequently feel less confident or supported to step up and speak out in the workplace, particularly when it comes to high-stakes scenarios.
A study of 1,000 workplaces conducted by RADA Business for our report, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, found a clear disparity between the causes of anxiety around communicating for men and women.
The evidence suggests that while men require more help with skills around spontaneous communication such as networking, women find it harder to stand their ground and get their voice heard when stepping into the spotlight – often in situations that may have a signifi cant impact on their career path, such as meetings, job interviews and appraisals.
Notably, the research shows that women are 37% more likely than men to experience communications anxiety in the workplace when negotiating a pay rise.
A growing workplace issue for many people is ‘imposter syndrome’. Simply put, the internalised fear and doubt of our achievements and authority. It can hinder employees from reaching their career goals or potential.
It appears to be particularly prevalent among women in business as they try to climb the career ladder and progress to more senior roles. Our research shows that workplace performance anxiety manifests at key moments in women’s careers, with 39% of women more likely than men to experience workplace anxiety when interviewing for a new job.
If women are displaying the signs of imposter syndrome in situations where they need to confidently put themselves forward, it’s particularly important for them to build resilience and pride in talking about their achievements.
Communications anxiety can have many physical manifestations: racing heart, shortness of breath, sweaty palms and clouded thinking. We teach women skills and techniques they can put in place to overcome this.
By visualising their best self and using these techniques to instil greater self-confidence, women can release their ability to convey authority and assurance in challenging situations and tackle imposter syndrome head-on.
Tiered women’s programmes are designed so that women can thrive in more senior roles. They focus on three key career stages: aspiring managers, developing senior managers, and executive level.
This is an abridged article from February’s TJ magazine. Subscribe here to get all TJ’s premium content.
They explore the power of physicality, voice and language, so that women can reflect on their own communication styles, and learn tools and strategies to use these attributes to affect the attitude and behaviours of those around them.
This includes public speaking techniques such as the power of rehearsing aloud to oneself as an actor would – not necessarily to learn a script, but rather to practise the structure of your talking points to manage the impact of nerves in the moment.
For example, if you focus on aiming for a particular point in your speech, that one ‘buzzword’ can release a flowing narrative that sounds conversational and authentic, and not robotic.
Storytelling techniques craft a powerful narrative and carry the audience on a journey. This can be achieved by ensuring you start any presentation with a strong opening line to engage your audience right from the beginning, and a compelling closing line to land your overall point.
By shaping your key messages in this way, you can not only create greater rapport with your audience (in a similar way to an actor’s performance), but also convey more authority in your arguments – which in turn gives you greater confidence as the speaker.
About the author
Alison Sutherland is client director at RADA Business.