Half of every business moment is a performance. That’s a pretty strong statement, and here’s why it’s true.
I help people who desire more success to improve their communication skills, and I do this by using what I’ve learned during my career as an actress.
As you probably know, the job of an actor is to make someone else’s words sound as if they were their own and to deliver them with authenticity and animation. The goal is to:
- Make the audience believe what you are saying
- Cause the audience to feel the emotion of the moment
- Help them to identify with what is happening
In business, the goals are similar. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you must come across as believable and trustworthy. You want to engage others on an emotional level that will help them to personally identify with what you offer and see the benefits of your products and services to them.
Here’s how to hone your communication skills and make every moment count during your next presentation.
When I was about to begin my work of helping those in the corporate world to practice better business communications, an actor friend gave me a copy of Martha Graham’s quote for inspiration. It was actually part of a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille, both great choreographers, and from the moment I read that extraordinary quote, I knew I had to find a way to use it in my work.
To this day, I use Graham’s words as a monologue. Every person I have ever taught, in business and at USC, has been encouraged to speak these words. It is the very essence of what my work is all about.
Here is what Martha Graham wrote to Agnes DeMille:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.”
I use this quotation so extensively because of the potency of Martha Graham’s language. She used incredibly powerful, emotional words. It’s very difficult to say vitality, life force, quickening, block or unique without bringing passion, energy and animation to the words.
The concept is so simple that people tend to get this piece right away.
Martha Graham’s quote is an incredible tool, easily included for use on any emotional journey, but what’s truly great is that as you work with these words, your initial understanding of their basic sense will expand into an appreciation of even subtler shades of meaning.
When my students recite these words aloud, for example, they imbue them with humor, joy, and even pain. They have spoken these words completely outrageously – as well as very seriously.
Saying this passage is powerful, but I’d like to suggest you take it a step further.
I highly suggest that you commit these words to memory. When you have memorized, internalized, and taken ownership of them, the real work can begin.
Look closely again at the words in that quote. If you’re not really sure what they mean, or you want to go deeper and find even more meanings, take the time to look them up in the dictionary.
Once you’ve memorized the words, speak the quote aloud a few times. Don’t try to act it, simply get used to the sound of your voice saying these words.
At first this exercise may feel strange. It may be hard to say those words since you don’t normally speak this way, but that’s what a monologue is all about – saying someone else’s words and making them sound as if they’re your own.
Most of us have had some sort of experience with presenting material using something other than our own words. Even if it’s something as dry as a financial report, you can still establish a connection with the words you speak by expressing them with passion, energy and animation to make the moment better. Just because the material is boring doesn’t mean you have to be!
Be sure to include expressing the words in front of your mirror or better still, videotape your performance. If you like, send me a copy of the video in an email, and I’ll be happy to comment on your ‘performance.’