I was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that’s its in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words, he spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller.
It was a very simple yet powerful answer, because words have the power to change the world. Think of the four words, “I have a dream”. The moment they enter your mind, you know who said them and why. They are a call to action, and a call to find the best part of ourselves, because words have the power to arouse every emotion.
Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for. Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people its what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless and the power is simply ‘powerful’.
Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next presentation or key note speech, to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:
They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires and allows the actor to step in and become the character.
You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world. Harvard and Forbes are good sources for promoting excellent communicators and leaders and people worth reading. Another excellent source is The growth Show from HubSpot, a business podcast for leaders featuring conversations with people who have achieved remarkable growth. The Growth Show from HubSpot
Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories. Maybe its time to take an acting class to develop your voice – technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.
In the meantime you can draw on your learnings from your reading, research and analysis to adapt this process to the concept, message, idea you want to communicate, by following these three steps:
1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Dr. Martin Luther King did. He had a deep rooted understanding of the world he existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place to move beyond this. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team you operate in.
2. Dr. King took time to get to know people at grass roots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges, you need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.
3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture – the world you operate in and the individuals within that world, provides the backdrop to your story (script, concept, idea, message), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.