In high school I loved to perform. Whether it was in the school musical, on the debating floor or on the assembly stage, you could always find me where there was an audience. At the time I just thought it was a bit of fun, however, since graduating I have realised that the skills I gained by getting involved in the performing arts also help me in a range of other areas.
When you work in a startup, performance and communication skills are crucial. If you go to any event or see any pitch you can tell the founders that are able to engage the audience and articulate their ideas, they are clear standouts from the rest. As a startup you do a lot of ‘performing’ too. Whether it is pitching your idea to an audience, communicating with potential clients or even motivating your team, communication skills are essential.
I have been ‘performing’ in the startup space for a while now and I always find myself asking impressive speakers and presenters where they learnt their skills. Whilst for some it comes naturally, for the majority, there is always a part of their life spent in the arts. Whether they studied drama, dance or music, they all agree that their performing arts training has helped them in many facets of their life.
Now, you may be reading this and thinking ‘but surely if I have a good enough idea I won’t need to pitch or present. People will just come running with money?’. Ahhh, wouldn’t that be nice. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but unfortunately the chances of that happening are pretty slim. No matter how good your idea is you’re still going to have to present it at some point in your journey. It may be in the form of explaining it to investors, when trying to find new staff or even when talking to the media.
Whilst those online courses might be great and sure toast masters is a thing, in my opinion you still can’t beat getting up on stage and gaining real practice and experience. In the theatre you learn to display emotions, to develop your character, and most of all, to tell a story. As a performer and even as a founder, you are a storyteller above all else. You need to be able to captivate your audience with a story they will never forget. And all this can be learnt through theatre.
So if you’re reading this and already opening another tab to browse broadway shows, don’t let me stop you, they are fab! But while you’re watching them, watch the actors, study how they move, how they talk and how they get into character. These are all conscious decisions that have been meticulously planned, rehearsed and perfected. Then think of the decisions you make when you perform in business. How do you 'get into character’ for your pitch? What are your mannerisms? What is the pitch of your voice? And check your posture. Then start thinking about the story you’re telling. What is your story? How does it flow? And what do you want your audience to take away from it after? Finally, think about what will make you memorable. Is it your game changing technology? Your charisma? Or your story?
I also implore you to take note of the next pitches you watch. Look at how the presenter engages the audience; what they do well; and how you can do better.
So next time you get up to pitch, prep for an investor, or need to talk to your team, make sure you get into character and give the performance of your life!