All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. – William Shakespeare
Are you in the sort of role where you have to give presentations fairly often?
Perhaps you do sales presentations, seminars or small group talks.
I haven’t had to do these for a while but have recently had more on the go.
Which, of course, meant I had to put off preparing for as long as possible.
I excuse this by retelling the story of the woodcutter who had to chop down a tree in an hour and so spent the first three-quarters of the hour sharpening the axe.
It’s more interesting finding a way to hack something than to do it in the first place.
And my approach was to think about how to plan these presentations using scripts – which of course meant learning how to make scripts like the ones used in films.
If you remember, they look typewritten with dialogue centered and other stuff everywhere.
Anyway, I also decided that I would do this using Groff, learning how to create some simple macros along the way.
Now, for the one person, maybe not even that, who is interested in this, here is some code.
\# Define macro for screenplay format .de DG .CW .ps 12 .ll 5.3i .in 1.9i .ce \\$1 .ad l .. .de NM .LP .CW .ps 12 ..
If you save this in a file called screen.mac and call that in a Groff file formatted using ms macros – as shown in the snippet below
.so screen.mac .NM THIS IS AN EXAMPLE SCREENPLAY LAYOUT PRESENTATION SCRIPT .DG "INTRODUCTION" And my approach was to think about how to plan these presentations using scripts - which of course meant learning how to make scripts like the ones used in films.
You get something that looks like this:
Okay – back to the main theme of this post.
Once you’ve got your screenplay what do you do with it?
The point, I think, is to get better at telling people what you do in your business.
Now, what actors do is learn their lines so they can convince us they are someone else and draw us into the story.
How do they do that?
A paper by Nina Bandelj titled How Method Actors Create Character Roles tells us that Method-acting is a technique based on the work of Konstantin Stanislavsky, a Russian theatre director and practitioner.
He laid down conventions, a few of which are important for us to understand if we want to apply them to our work.
Few of us like to sell, but we also like to think we do good work.
So, we need to be clear on the underlying motivation for why we do what we do.
If we’re not con artists and do a decent job then at the heart of why we do the work we do must lie a conviction that it is good work to do.
Without that underlying motivation any performance will either fall flat or come across as fake.
Which brings us to being authentic. The best actors bring their own personality to a part. They augment it rather than taking away from it.
In your business you play many parts and one of the most important is as a salesperson – which is why the best salespeople are the ones that own the business. They identify completely with their business and so come across as authentic.
Crucial to a role, however, is understanding its context and environment. Method actors do deep research, relying on acute observation to understand the part they are playing.
If you’re selling to someone that process is one of deep research. The more you understand what your client needs the better your pitch can be.
In fact, these days, you’re probably better off not bidding for any work unless the client agrees to spend at least an hour going through the situation and answering any questions you have about what they might need.
When you’re pitching, however, you’re not going to read from your script.
That’s there to learn and improve and fiddle with – but you’ll also need to be prepared to deliver without holding onto it and improvise along the way.
The improvisation is what’s going to make your delivery natural – even if it’s scripted word for word.
And then there is the look and feel – the dress and props you use to show who you are – whether that’s a business person in a suit or a cool designer in a turtleneck.
There’s a school of thought that suggests you can act yourself into feeling a certain way.
If you want to feel like you’re a confident, accomplished presenter then you could do worse than acting like an actor.
The tools and methods they use to prepare for roles are ones that you can use to prepare for the day-to-day situations you face in business.
You just need to act like you know what you’re doing.