Trainer, Speaker or Actor? Why Not Acting in Business? In Training?

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    This all began as a comment to my LinkedIn colleagues of actors, trainers, speakers and assorted other related professionals. Someone had asked the question: In your opinion what is the difference between an actor and a speaker? It actually stirred up quite the controversy. Actors, speakers and trainers come from many different backgrounds as you will learn over the course of–not just this early blog–but others to come.

    At first I was offended because many of the comments addressing the acting question showed a real lack of knowledge of acting, and in general, communicating. And, some of these people actually get paid to speak or train.

    Yes, that’s me from another time.

    Any professional actor with training will tell you this: acting is not just about pretending to be someone else. It is reacting. Acting is not just a scripted performance, but an interactive experience with the audience–the same we hope for in training or public speaking.

    Speaking from a script only sounds easy, but it’s not. Try reading aloud for an extended period of time. Now, put on the pressure of people you don’t know–mostly eyes watching you read.

    For an actor, who sight reads really well it may not be that much of a jump; actors are used to words coming out of their mouths and having an impact on an audience. Reading a script is how an actor auditions for a role, especially for commercials. Then, remember how complicated good communication really is–with eye contact, movement, gestures and subtle interactions with the audience.

    As trainers and professional communicators (that includes actors), we know better than to memorize scripts when speaking, except for a part of them. See my blog on memorizing. As an actor who speaks, I can tell you doing a speech or training session without a script is the best way to go.

    If you memorize a script, don’t forget to memorize a characterization of another person as well as the stage movement motivated by the lines of your character. It is, of course, more work to do a scripted speech or training session, naturally, without sounding mechanical. To do that requires more than conversation, more than knowledge of a topic. It requires audience analysis, and you have to make the script yours otherwise it will sound artificial.

    It may seem like I’m going off topic, but it seems the combination of acting and public speaking principles actually make for a pretty good trainer. Actors are not only actors, and speakers not only speakers; I’d bet the best of both professions, are not singular in their thinking about what works and learn from all areas that gets the job done. Granted, not all that an actor knows or should know to be a good actor is applicable in all circumstances; the same can be said of a good trainer or a good speaker.

    I may have mixed up my education, but each of those parts help with the whole. The English and theater departments appreciated that I could bring a psychological perspective to literature, drama, and performance. The psychology department loved that I could communicate behavior.

    And, to that, I say to all of you: Bring all your knowledge and skills to bear on your performance–be it as a trainer or speaker or actor. It’s all good. All of my blogs, including my blogs on training and development are on my website. Don’t be surprised to find some on acting and directing and theatrical reviews as well. Check it out.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.